By on July 8, 2016


A software fix designed to bring sidelined 2.0-liter diesel Volkswagen models into compliance just made the vehicle dirtier, a European consumer group claims.

According to Reuters, the Italian consumer group Altroconsumo tested an Audi Q5 that underwent Volkswagen’s technical fix, only to find that nitrous oxide emissions were 25 percent higher than before.

The Q5, like the bulk of the 11 million recalled 2009–2015 TDI models, was equipped with the EA189 Euro 5 engine. Volkswagen’s European fix for that engine relies on software only, while the Euro-market 1.6-liter TDI requires a piece of mesh to regulate air flow as well as the software fix.

European Union emissions regulations aren’t as strict as those mandated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, but they aren’t lax, either. Several million of the recalled vehicles are being called back to dealers for an approved fix. In response to the test, the European Consumer Organization (BEUC) issued a statement calling the fix “a fudge.”

“This is another blow for EU consumers and a new dimension of the VW scandal,” stated Monique Goyens, general director of the BEUC. “This test by our Italian member clearly demonstrates that VW’s solution to deactivate the defeat device is not reliable.”

She went on to criticize the company for not offering European owners any compensation for its scandal. Stricter emissions laws in the U.S. meant a pricey mechanical fix was required to bring the EA189 engine into compliance. The company agreed to a buyback and compensation program amounting to more than $15 billion.

“Volkswagen justifies compensation payments to US consumers with the argument that their cars cannot be as easily fixed as in Europe,” Goyens stated. “This excuse now seems to be built on sand. VW must compensate European consumers. This is the only possible way forward for VW to make up for this ongoing consumer detriment.”

The EPA has yet to agree to a preferred fix for U.S. owners who want to keep their vehicles on the road. According to the settlement, 85 percent of affected vehicles must be bought back or repaired by June 2019 or the automaker will face penalties of $100 million for every percentage point below that number. In total, 475,000 2.0-liter VW and Audi TDI models are affected by the settlement.

The 2015 model year brought a new 2.0-liter TDI engine — the extensively revamped EA288. That mill is outfitted with an AdBlue urea injection system designed to scrub NOX from the vehicle’s exhaust, making it arguably easier to bring into compliance.

(This story has been corrected. It originally stated that the recall rate for the fix option must meet 85 percent of the vehicles not bought back by the manufacturer. That is incorrect, and the copy has been updated.)

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29 Comments on “Volkswagen’s Diesel Fix Actually Makes Emissions Worse, Consumer Group Claims...”

  • avatar

    “According to the settlement, the recall rate for the fix option must meet 85 percent of the vehicles not bought back by the manufacturer.”

    This statement is actually incorrect. VW must remove or fix 85% of the vehicles by 2019,or face additional fines for each percentage point they are off.
    So, if 85% of people choose the buyback, VW is good.

    • 0 avatar

      Although I’ve been in favor of tough justice for VW, fair is fair and VW should not be penalized for the noncooperation of owners. If there are 475,000 affected cars, if more than 71,250 owners should decide they want to keep their car as it is, I don’t think VW should be fined 100 million. And another 100 million for every 4750 refusals. They can’t seize the cars at gunpoint, after all.

      It does give the owners quite a bit of leverage, though. As long as nobody demands more than $21,000 VW comes out ahead penalty-wise.

      • 0 avatar

        The language and penalties are geared more towards the repair, though. I think the logic behind it is if VW doesn’t have any further incentive to implement a fix AND get it done, then they won’t do it. If they do come up with a fix though and they have the parts, then I don’t think they should be penalized for not meeting the goal since no one brings their cars in for a recall. And VW dealers are the worst in the world anyways, so the only way I’m going in to one is if the state requires me to, which they are…

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    The one good thing to come out of this scandal is that Europeans now realize that they’ve been lied-to for years about diesel emissions.

    “If this stuff is too toxic for Americans, why are we breathing it?”

    Sooner or later Australians will realize this as well :)

    • 0 avatar

      That is not the only thing we were lied about by the EU…

    • 0 avatar

      @heavy handle,
      Lying all round. US consumers believe the air is cleaner, in the US, but it is not, it has some of the most toxic stuff on the planet. Diesels are only part of equation, , need to look at Gas engines, some have vastly more nasties than diesel.US is full of Gas engines

      • 0 avatar

        Europe has a ludicrous number of pre emissions, cancer causing, dirty diesels running amok. It’ll take decades of breathing the sh!t, to get them off the road, even if all *new* Euro diesels were truly clean as of this moment.

        All European petrol engines have catalytic converters, since 1992 (vs since 1975 in the US). They’re not the problem.

        The US still doesn’t have totally clean air, but nothing like Paris which is known to top Shanghai smog. And we’re talking the worst kind of dirty air. Unfiltered diesel toxins.

        Banning cars IN GENERAL is grossly stupid. Paris needs to ban every pre emissions diesels (along with all TDIs) *immediately*, and before any others. But Paris and France walk a fine line.. They sure as hell don’t want to sound the alarm on how badly they fukked up by promoting and subsidizing diesels, over gasoline. *Overkill*.

      • 0 avatar

        the only lying here is being done by you. The air in Southern California used to be nearly unbreatheable on warm/hot days due to smog. The clean air regulations which clamped down on NOx (which is what VW cheated on) have done wonders to improve things. It wasn’t quite Beijing bad, but it was pretty nasty.

        Here’s LA in 1948:


        So while we’ve been trying to make our air cleaner, Europe’s has been getting dirtier thanks to their push for diesel and nearly worthless emissions standards.

        • 0 avatar
          DC Bruce

          I worked in LA in the summer of 1969. There were days when just couldn’t stop coughing. I’ve been in LA many times since then, at all times of the year. I’ve never experienced anything like what I did then, despite the area’s much greater population. There’s no question in my mind about the effectiveness of automotive emission controls. European cities have had a series of challenges, beginning with the use of coal as a heating fuel. The so-called London fog was actually smog caused by burning coal in fireplaces for heat. Then, there was the widespread use of two-cycle engines in motorcycles and cars (Saab used 2-cycle engines well into the 1960s). After the first “oil shock” of the mid-1970s it was the use of small Diesel engines in cars, encouraged by taxation policies that favored diesel oil and the superior fuel economy of diesels over gas engines. While it’s probably fair to blame European governments for favoring diesel fuel, it’s also the result of relatively higher fuel prices in Europe vs. the US, which give consumers a much bigger incentive to choose fuel efficiency there than in the US.

        • 0 avatar

          Got news for you, it still is a major health hazard. Maybe if California switches totally to EV’s it will improve. LA had a greasy oilly smell when Inwas there, far from clean

          • 0 avatar

            You must’ve stayed at the motel next to the La Brea Tar Pits. I know it well, and remember the smell. I spent a month there one night.

            Worst case for LA, the smog ruins the view of the San Gabriels, not the gagging killer smog of European cities that blocks out the sun.

          • 0 avatar

            you’re not giving me any “news.” I know it’s not perfect, but it’s a hell of a lot better than it was in decades past.

            I don’t know what is in the drinking water in Australia, but you come up with the most nonsensical BS.

          • 0 avatar

            You know it is not perfect?? It is better than it was? It is KILLING people in the US, who is spewing delusion and BS? Live happily in your little hell hole
            You and others have to put up with it, thank god I do not

          • 0 avatar

            Native SoCal boy here, since 1963. I can tell you that the air is much, much better than it was when I was growing up, or even in the 1980’s and 1990’s.

            In the late 1980’s I had a job that required me to drive all over SoCal, from the high desert down to San Diego and out to the Coachella Valley. Most days you could not see the mountains, or even the foothills. I lived in Irvine at the time and it was a super rare day when you could see Saddleback. Up in LA, it was a rare sight to see Mt Wilson or Baldy.

            On weekends I would go up to Big Bear, along the top of the mountains above the Inland Empire, along the Rim-of-the-World. You would look down on San Bernadino and see nothing but a gross, thick, oily black cloud down there.

            I used to have to fly over to Phoenix frequently. It was just as bad. When you looked out the plane window on approach all you saw was big brown cloud. It was gross.

            Now I can see the tops of the mountains every day. The days I can’t are when there are natural clouds or marine layer obscuring them. It isn’t perfect. I still see a brownish tinge to the clouds in the afternoon. But I guarantee you, it is magnitudes better than it used to be.

            On a related note. I also found London to be a lot cleaner now. When I first starting going to London in the late 1980’s it smelled like an open petrol tank to me (and I’m from SoCal!). I go over frequently for my job and I find like LA, London is now breathable and livable. So they must be doing something right over there.

      • 0 avatar

        Incorrect Robert Ryan – modern gasoline engines are vastly cleaner than diesels, even when diesels are equipped with SCR. Diesel is by nature a dirty fuel, and NOx scrubbing only reduces NOx, it doesnt eliminate it. Many gasoline vehicles are now considered PZEV even though they have an ICE.

        A large portion of vehicular pollution in the US comes from older semi tractors with no emissions controls, diesel based public transit, construction equipment, and train emissions. One semi without emissions controls and a dodgy engine will blow more pollutants into the air than 500 “pre-fix” VW diesels combined. THAT is where the US really needs to be focused, and THAT is what pollutes dense urban area air.

        I am all for “emissions ticketing” whereby any vehicle spewing visible exhaust emissions receives a ticket with a fine and a mandatory emissions test within 30 days. If it fails, it remains off the road until it is brought in compliance. This is not a political rant – I commute by expressway daily, and watch motorists choke on belching unburnt diesel from 1980s built tractor-trailers. Of course, the tractor driver is not affected – its everyone behind them.

        • 0 avatar

          A greater part of the US has not only bad air, but lethal air. US ranks slightly below China in air quality. Yes there have been improvements but not enough.
          DI Gas engines are the main culprits, NOx is not the only pollutant that is of real concern
          Yes the belchers are not as bad as you think, it is the stuff you cannot see that is more of a concern

          • 0 avatar
            DC Bruce

            You got a source for the proposition that DI gas engines are the main culprits? I kinda doubt that, since their use has become widespread only in the last 3-4 years. As SSJeep says, there are a number of unregulated sources: small gasoline engines for lawn mowers etc., older diesels powering trucks and buses, locomotives, ships in harbor, aircraft and coal and oil-burning electric generating stations. Here in metro DC your “zero emission” Tesla likely runs on coal, which provides base load electricity for this area.

      • 0 avatar

        What “nasties” are you talking about? That supposedly have such an asymmetrical affinity for the US?

        The two biggest automotive sources for concentrated pollution in the US, is 1)diesel from all manners of heavy transport that, in true progressive fashion, is considered more equal, hence not subject to the same limits as everyone else. And 2) particulates from the interaction between tires and the road surface.

        No different than in Europe, IOW. In Europe, passenger cars are dirtier, but big rigs are cleaner wrt engine emissions. In the US, the mindless kowtowing to shortsighted lobbyists babbling nonsensically about “job creators” and other drivel, have asymmetrically shielded heavy trucks of all stripes, including school buses, from having to comply with passenger car style emissions requirements. But the “nasties” are still just diesel nasties. Nothing particularly American about them.

        I’m sure the four guys sharing the entire Australian continent do get to enjoy unusually clean air, as aside from the occasional beer burp, there’s just not much there to dirty it up. But it’s not like the US transport sector is powered by dirty nukes or anything.

        • 0 avatar

          No cars are cleaner, even their fuel quality is Europe. Nasties are not only the particulates but heavy metals and other pollutants puto out by Gas engines, get a lot in one small area,, then it is deadly for YOU..Particulates do come out of car exhausts as well as other pollutants
          NOx and Co2 are bad for the environment

          • 0 avatar

            Yeah, so ironic to pick on poor little VW and European deadly, disgusting air quality, with so many unfiltered, pre emissions ocean liners, trains, semis, plus *less than perfect* air quality everywhere from LA to Shanghai.

            The problem with this type of whining is these other dirty diesel sources aren’t exactly filling every breath, city dwellers have to breathe for their entire (shortened) lifetimes, in places where most every car around you is a dirty little, stinkin’ diesel, all the damn time.

          • 0 avatar

            More and more evidence coming online that, along with more diesel like efficiency, you also get more diesel like particulates, with DI engines than with (optimized) traditional port injected ones. Just not enough time for the fuel droplets to fully evaporate before being charred. It’s just that Gas DI (Petrodiesel…. :) ) engines emit particles that are much smaller and less obvious to anyone with a damp white handkerchief. They’re also mostly small enough to pass through biological tissue, so can’t as easily be seen in the lungs of people. But who’s to say being small enough to pass clean through the blood/brain barrier and back out is necessarily such a good thing for tissue they encounter in their travels?

            Which, again, is a bigger problem in Europe than elsewhere, as that is where their usage originated (similar technology that was originally developed for small diesels), and where they’re still the most popular.

            IOW, Big, honking, port injected, medium compression V8s, US style, are still the “safe” choice, air quality wise. Or perhaps smaller, less honking port injected Japanese 4s are better still, but burgers and fries make you heavier than sushi, and this IS an enthusiast site….

            Anyway, the main takeaway is that there are costs to the idiotic obsession many, particularly Europeans, have about something as benign as soda bubbles. Northern Germany getting a degree or two hotter over the next century will just make it a little less inhospitable to the next generation of Germans, who will have originated in much hotter still Syria… Simply using less fossil fuels, as in driving Kei cars instead of Vipers and Crew Cab Long Bed Duallies for the daily solo commute to a cubicle, is hard to argue against from a “save the environment” perspective. But substituting all manners of poorly understood nastiness for perfectly safe CO2, to fit in with some cult paranoid about having to wear shorts instead of jeans for one week more out of the year, is just plain stupid.

          • 0 avatar

            Direct Injection “particulates” will be an easy fix, just an improved EGR and catalytic converter, which is nothing like diesel emissions.

          • 0 avatar


            Jury’s still out on that one. Just like Diesel particulates, gas ones are likely to be pretty darned stable. And unlike Diesel ones, they’re small enough to require filters with the permeability of a solid sheet of steel to prevent them slipping though.

            By far the easiest, simplest and cheapest, is to burn gas in a way that doesn’t create them in the first place. Of course, the biggest problem with that, is that doing so is a very well understood process. As in, one any old Chinese upstart could do 99% as well as the big European manufacturers, who have sunk tens of billions into developing these particle generators to begin with.

            Hence, “studies” “showing” soda bubbles are the end of the world will likely, at least for now, keep the drones, fistclenchers and bootstompers in line, and overpaying to the tune of thousands, for their underhood complexification exercises.

  • avatar

    Back to the drawing board, boys!

    • 0 avatar

      @DC Bruce,
      As there are a lot of DI engines on the roads worldwide, do not expect much action on the issue as every manufacturer is involved.

      • 0 avatar

        Or, you know, the EPA is already on top of it and it’s going into effect in 2017.

  • avatar

    By the time this fiasco is over there will probably be more pollution emitted and energy used in fixing and replacing these cars than the original problem would have caused.

  • avatar

    “Of course, the tractor driver is not affected – its everyone behind them.”
    Unless there’s another truck or bus from the 70s, or even the 60s, in front of them.
    Yep the air in SoCal was much worse in the 50s and 60s than today. However there were also many more heavy industrial plants around then. Steel mills, cement plants, tire factories and others put a huge amount of particulates, Nox, and hydrocarbons into the air. Most of those factories are gone now. That production has moved to Asia or Latin America and is one of the reasons for the dirty air there and the cleaner air here.
    Certainly the emission controls on autos and trucks has also been a part of better air quality in Socal and many other areas as well.
    Many parts of Commiefornia do not meet the Clean Air Act standards, and likely never will. Unless there’s a big earthquake or some other event that causes 70% of the population to go somewhere else or disappear.
    And don’t get me started on MTBE.

  • avatar

    We’re still debating the buyback versus the fix for my wife’s Passat. At this point we’re leaning toward keeping the car, taking the cash, and waiting to see what happens. Either they come up with a fix that is acceptable and we keep the car, the fix is not acceptable and we dump the car…

    Or, as the deadline approaches, if Volkswagen can’t come up with an approved fix and they need more cars to meet the 85% threshold, they end up doing a second buyback (minus the fix cash) for those of us who stuck it out.

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