Now that we’ve spent a week learning about emissions test cheating at Volkswagen, this new information shouldn’t be surprising: Volkswagen was warned at least twice against cheating. Both Volkswagen’s own staff and one of its suppliers, Bosch, warned against efforts to detect and thwart emissions tests, according to reports in the German press.
The scandal, that we’re calling Dieselgate, has to do with certain cars manufactured by Volkswagen (under VW and Audi brand names), with the 2.0 liter TDI Diesel engine. Beginning with the 2009 model year, VW engineers programmed these cars to detect when they’re undergoing an emissions test, and under those conditions to turn on all the emissions control equipment. Otherwise that stuff would be disabled, giving the cars more pep/performance, but also emitting 10-40x the allowed level of NOx air pollution. When NOx gets into the atmosphere it becomes NO2, which causes a wide range of seriously bad problems including asthma. It’s thought that VW sold 11 million cars worldwide with this problem, that then emitted perhaps 1 million extra tonnes of pollution.
On Sunday, two reports in the German press detailed warnings given to Volkswagen against cheating.
Frankfurter Allgemeinen talked about a VW technician who, in 2011, warned against illegal practices in connection with exhaust gas. This information came from a first report of an internal audit team at Volkswagen, told to them by a source on the Supervisory Board. Bild.de takes the story a little further, talking about Bosch (the German parts supplier) and its warning in 2007 to senior management. Bosch supplied the emissions control and other equipment, and had supplied some software it stressed was only for testing purposes.
Bosch’s warning letter reportedly said to Volkswagen that their proposed use of that software was illegal. Bosch replied to this report saying their relationship with Volkswagen was confidential.
Since both those reports are in German, I’m relying on the translation provided by my browser. Reuters published today a piece going over those reports, and giving some useful context.
Reuters says the report came from an internal investigation into the emissions test cheating, that’s likely focusing on how high up the chain of command was the decision made.
Both the Bild and Frankfurter Allgemeinen reports noted that Volkswagen is also hiring outside investigators to give more impartiality.
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