A few years ago, you couldn’t sneeze in an elevator without it landing on at least one automotive executive in trouble for diesel emissions cheating. Following Volkswagen’s diesel emissions scandal in 2015, regulators around the globe smelled blood in the water and the feeding frenzy began. Diesel cars that were previously championed as the cleaner alternative in Europe were now public enemy number one. Manufacturers responsible for long-lasting engines with high efficiencies were subjected to enhanced scrutiny. It was something of a sooty witch hunt and has gradually lost steam as the world found new, more immediate things to be outraged with.
But that doesn’t mean nobody has been checking up on them. Hino Motors, Toyota’s truck and bus arm, has confessed that it caught itself cheating after launching an internal investigation into its North American operations. Apparently, some products that should have been subject to Japan’s 2016 emission regulations were not — among some other issues.
As previously reported, vehicle certifications have been suspended during the current government shutdown. While this is normally a non-issue, the extended length of this federal deferment is starting to spook automakers.
Fiat Chrysler has already bemoaned the situation, as it’s currently waiting for the Environmental Protection Agency to approve its Ram Heavy Duty pickups. While the situation hasn’t become truly dire, other automakers have begun expressing concerns of their own.
Unless you’re employed by Uncle Sam, you may not have noticed the current government shutdown impacting your life by any meaningful margin. That, of course, has not kept the media from spending the entire month scaremongering and trying to place blame (Spoiler: It’s everyone’s fault, as these shutdowns happen anytime Congress has to agree on a new budget, and partisan politics keeps them from working toward any cooperative solutions).
While this is the longest partial shutdown of the U.S. government in modern history (take that, 1996), it hasn’t been quite as terrifying as the internet or television would lead you to believe. However, we’re starting to get a little uneasy at this point — because it looks like the situation could delay the launch of the Ram Heavy Duty we’ve prattled on about for the past two days.
Volkswagen Group has delayed the U.S. launch of its flagship Arteon sedan for a few more months as it waits for that all-important emissions certification. Apparently, Europe’s switch to the updated Worldwide Harmonized Light-Duty Vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP) has created an extensive approvals backlog.
While the United States still uses the EPA’s less forgiving FTP-75 and HWFET, Europe is in the process of abandoning the ironically named New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) for WLTP. Presumably, VW wants to ensure its vehicles are green lit by the EU before it starts manufacturing them for the U.S. Unfortunately for the automaker, it stands to lose sales in the interim.
Japan’s automotive industry finds itself in the midst of a minor scandal. Last year, the Japanese government ordered manufacturers to investigate their operations after it was revealed that Subaru and Nissan conducting improper testing for decades. Initially, the issue seemed to revolve around a widespread laziness that allowed uncertified employees to conduct final inspection procedures. However, Subaru later admitted to employees falsifying emissions data.
While the problem does not appear to be an outright corporate conspiracy, some inspectors still decided to implement a policy they knew was against the rules to avoid questions from top brass. Likewise, senior employees advised inspectors to change test results for each vehicle that failed to meet internal quality control standards.
On Thursday, the Japanese government announced the inspection issue haS also touched Mazda Motor Corp, Suzuki Motor Corp and Yamaha Motor Co (which builds motorcycles and automotive engines). All three companies are now faulted for improper testing procedures and compliance failures.
The Lone Star State may be doing away with annual state vehicle inspections soon. On Thursday, a 27-4 vote in the Texas Senate approved a bill that would eliminate mandatory inspections for passenger vehicles. Although Senate Bill 1588 doesn’t change anything for commercial trucks, they’ll still be required to undergo a yearly safety inspection, and automobiles residing in seventeen counties will also have to pass emission tests for local air-quality laws.
For the rest of the state, it would be open season. “This is a tax cut that Texans will feel,” claimed Senator Don Huffines, a Dallas-based Republican who approved the bill. “It will save Texans $130 million they’re now having to pay for a procedure that has proven to have no discernible safety benefit to drivers.”
The Office of the Inspector General is preparing to conduct preliminary research to determine whether the Environmental Protection Agency’s internal controls are effective at detecting and preventing emissions fraud.
While the EPA has proven itself capable of stopping cheaters in the past, the federal oversight group wants to check in on the National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory in Ann Arbor, Michigan and the Office of Transportation and Air Quality in Washington D.C.
This investigation comes amid the current administration’s proposal of a 25 percent reduction in the EPA’s $8 billion budget, the elimination of almost 3,000 jobs, and the suspension of agency-backed programs and departments — including the environmental justice office. Automakers are also begging President Trump to rollback emissions standards after 2016 ended up being the first year since 2004 that U.S. light vehicles did not exceeded the industry-wide fuel economy targets. Regardless of intent, any appraisal of the EPA’s ability to act effectively will either serve to validate its existence or help rationalize its dismantlement.
As U.S. and European authorities gear-up for another round of investigations, Volkswagen confirmed Audi did produce cars equipped with software that can distort emission test results. Although VW was careful not to be too committal in its wording, hinting at it being a handy driver’s assist instead of a defeat device.
This must be a great time to be a corporate lawyer.
After banishing Volkswagen Group diesels from the American marketplace, the Environmental Protection Agency is taking its sweet time approving oil burners from other automakers.
So slow is the EPA in providing regulatory thumbs-ups to 2017 model year diesel vehicles, one automaker is re-thinking its plans for the U.S., Automotive News reports.
The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy has released its Greenest and Meanest cars for 2016 — and it’s bookended by vehicles from Daimler.
That, Europe wants to open up ECU code, Bosch says “You wouldn’t understand, so why bother?” and GayWheels takes aim at a possibly tasteless German Opel advert about, erm, rear-ending … after the break!
German authorities said Wednesday that they would retest all Volkswagen cars — regardless of engine type or brand — for emissions compliance, Reuters reported.
German transportation minister Alexander Dobrindt expressed his “irritation” with the automaker that more cars were being added to the deepening scandal. On Monday, the Environmental Protection Agency notified the automaker that some of its 3-liter diesel models may contain an illegal “defeat device” to fool emissions tests.
While working on a story about some very old cars, I stumbled upon something relevant to the latest big story in the automotive world.
I ran into a Model T collector who’s also a powertrain engineer for Ford. Seizing the opportunity, I asked him if he could tell me what he was working on (sometimes they say no). He said that he was responsible for developing computerized engine controls. Because of that expertise, I started to ask him some questions about the software program that Volkswagen apparently used to cheat on the EPA’s diesel emissions testing.
What he was willing to say and what he wouldn’t say intrigued me.