Volkswagen cleared of cheating in CO2 scandal

Investigation finds no systematic cheating and only six current VW brand model variants sold in Ireland wrongly state CO2

Volkswagen has admitted up to 11 million of its vehicles worldwide have been fitted with software to deceive US emissions tests. Assistant business editor Michael McAleer explains what happened and what it means for motorists and manufacturers. Video footage: Getty Images

 

An initial investigation into the Volkswagen Group’s array of cheating scandals has cleared the carmaker of claims it systematically cheated on CO2 figures.

While the investigations continue in the NOx emissions scandal, the more recent inquiry into claims it sold up to 800,000 cars with the wrong CO2 figures has found that only nine VW branded models currently on sale are wrongly calculated. The total number affected is now estimated to be in the region of 36,000.

The initial investigation report will cite combined efforts of investigators from the German Transport Department (KBA), public prosecutors, Volkswagen’s own staff investigators and the independent US law firm, Jones Day, which it commissioned to deliver an internal investigation into both the NOx and CO2 scandals.

The affected models on sale are: VW Polo 1.0l TSI BlueMotion 70kW Seven-speed (DSG); VW Scirocco 2.0l TDI BMT 135kW Six-speed manual gearbox; VW Jetta 1.2l TSI BMT 77kW Six-speed manual gearbox; VW Jetta 2.0l TDI BMT 81kW Five-speed manual gearbox; VW Golf Convertible 2.0l TDI BMT 81kW five-speed manual gearbox; VW Golf 2.0l TDI BMT 110kW Six-speed manual gearbox; VW Passat Alltrack 2.0l TSI 4MOTION BMT 162kW Seven-speed (DSG); VW Passat Variant 2.0l TDI SCR 4MOTION BMT 176kW Seven-speed (DSG); and VW Passat Variant 1.4l TSI ACT BMT 110kW Six-speed manual gearbox.

The emissions figures for these cars are believed to be out by one or two grammes, which means not all of the revised CO2 figures will impact on either Vehicle Registration Tax payments or motor tax rates.

Irish sales

In Ireland only six of the nine models affected are on sale, as Irish dealers don’t stock the 1-litre petrol engine Polo, Passat Alltrack, or the Golf Convertible. Most of the Irish cars affected are either Jettas or 2-litre diesel manual Golfs, neither of which are sold here in large numbers.

It means the number of Irish registered cars affected is expected to be significantly lower than the firm’s initial estimate of 9,000 cars. However as the findings of this initial investigation only relates to current Volkswagen models on sale, there may still be older VW models sold with the wrong emissions figures. A Volkswagen spokesman said the potential impact on these cars was still being investigated.

A statement by Volkswagen said: “The suspicion that the fuel consumption figures of current production vehicles had been unlawfully changed was not confirmed. During internal remeasurements slight deviations were found on just nine model variants of the Volkswagen brand.

“These model variants will be remeasured by a neutral technical service under the supervision of the appropriate authority by Christmas. In cases where the correctness of original figures is confirmed, there will be no consequences. These cars can be offered for sale by dealers without any reservations. In the case of any deviations, the figures will be adjusted in the future in the course of the normal processes as required.”

It also states: “the Group’s subsidiaries Audi, Skoda and Seat have also agreed a similar procedure with the approval authorities responsible for the vehicles initially considered.” Information on which current models from these brands will need to have their emissions figures amended is expected to be released tomorrow.

An internal whistleblower had informed Volkswagen Group chief executive Matthias Müller that an array of its cars were claiming “improbably low” CO2 numbers, which had a direct effect on their tax status in most European countries.

Acted within guidelines

Affected models

vw

However it now seems the initial investigation report, due to be presented on Thursday by Müller, will show that Volkswagen’s engineering and compliance teams acted within the guidelines for CO2 emissions.

The news will come as an enormous boost to the embattled car giant, with 11 million cars affected by its separate four-cylinder diesel NOx emissions-cheating scandal and a newer V6 turbodiesel default-code cheating scandal.

The findings announced on Wednesday don’t relate to the original emissions scandal concerning illicit softwared fitted to 11 million vehicles worldwide and designed to cheat emission tests. There is no claim that the number of vehicles affected by this has changed, with nearly 120,000 Irish cars affected.

However it does mean Volkswagen can pocket or redirect the €2 billion it had set aside to compensate owners and national tax offices from the CO2 “cheat”, and also effectively closes down a CO2-related tax fraud investigation started weeks ago by the Braunschweig public prosecutor’s office.

“The report will state that Volkswagen did not cheat on the CO2 figures,” a source insisted.

“The initial investigation will show that the investigation has been very thorough and we didn’t do anything wrong on CO2 claims.

“Some cars might have to be adjusted a gram one way or the other, but there’s nothing significant in that.”

The initial CO2 cheat claims, announced in October by Müller, centred around 800,000 Audis, Seats, Skodas and Volkswagen cars and included diesel-powered engines and cylinder-on-demand four-cylinder petrol engines.

It led to Volkswagen being given an ultimatum by the European Commission and into the opening of a criminal investigation by a German public prosecutor. It also forced Volkswagen into high-level negotiations with tax offices around Europe, where officially claimed CO2 figures are used to calculate road tax levels.

“There is a list of adjustments that can be made within the rules for CO2 testing and the investigation found that everything that has been done by Volkswagen is within those rules,” a source insisted.

Vehicle retests

“The cars are initially tested as pre-production cars to arrive at an initial CO2 figure and NEDC figure, then they have to be retested again within six months when the full production models are available. Sometimes the second test gives some cause for adjustments, one way or the other, but it’s rarely anything major.

“Of course, it’s like Formula One in that the rules have many areas which are not precisely written…

“We have retested all of the cars we could, which involves a lot of engine and gearbox and brand and body style varieties,” he said.

Sources insist the report will stop short of naming names for the NOx Dieselgate scandal, however.

“We are still working our way through all of that,” a source admitted.

“What we have about that is a roadmap of how the process went and the thinking behind the decision to take Volkswagen’s diesel engines this way.

“What we also have is a list of names and timelines and persons of interest, but we would have to be exactly, completely sure of anything before we released those names.”

NOx investigation continues

It comes on the back of recent news that Volkswagen’s recall on the NOx-affected cars in Europe would cost far less than initially thought and send cars back out of the dealerships within half an hour, with no loss of performance or increase in fuel consumption.

The carmaker is still working with the California Air Review Board and the Environmental Protection Agency to deliver fixes for the NOx Dieselgate cars in North America.

“The issues are different and the fixes are different,” a source said.

“In Europe, the limit for NOx is 80 milligrams per kilometre. In the US it’s 31, and the same limit you have for a petrol engine. That’s why the solution is more difficult, technically.”