Volkswagen chose Dieselgate emissions cheating in 2008, just before EA 189 engine went into production

Getting back to the Volkswagen Dieselgate emissions cheating scandal, one of the open questions is “when” and “why” did VW resort to cheating on emissions tests?  Earlier I’d reported statements in the press that Bosch had warned Volkswagen as far back as 2007 against using certain test software to control the emissions system, because it would be illegal.  And, it seems, that Volkswagen didn’t want to bear the $1500 cost per car of a urea based emissions control system.  Now a new report from the German newspaper, Bild am Sonntag, says Volkswagen’s decision to cheat occurred in 2008 shortly before the EA 189 engine went into mass production.

I wasn’t able to find the article on the Bild website, so will instead link to NY Times and Marketwatch coverage.

The engine had been in development since 2005, and was meant to meet tougher emissions control standards.  However, engineers could not get it to actually perform to those emissions standards, at the targeted cost for the engine.  After several years development, at great expense, Volkswagen was faced either with abandoning introduction of the engine, or cheating.  Apparently VW couldn’t stomach not meeting the cost target?

The Bild am Sonntag report cites unnamed sources close to the investigation.

Among the top executives who’ve been suspended from Volkswagen are:

  • Ulrich Hackenberg, head of development for all Volkswagen Group brands, including Audi, and previously head of development for Volkswagen-brand cars from 2007 to 2013;
  • Heinz-Jakob Neusser, currently head of development for the Volkswagen brand;
  • and Wolfgang Hatz, head of engines and transmissions development for all Volkswagen brands.

Thinking about the timeline of this, as someone who has worked in (software) engineering organizations …

This engine was in development since 2005, and the decision to cheat came in 2008.  It’s extremely likely the engineering staff knew of the problem much earlier than 2008.  They might have had a working engine in (say) 2006, and then working diligently on the design to iron out “bugs” (defects).  Since emissions control was a key acceptance goal for this engine, they will have known early it wasn’t meeting emissions requirements.  Therefore in 2008 the decision to cheat will have been made after many other possible solutions had been tried.

The pressure to meet the production deadline at the targeted engine cost will have forced VW into cheating.

About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.

About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.

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