Archive for November, 2015

devil in defeat device details

Tuesday, November 24th, 2015

Bob Lutz affirms what I and many other technical types have been saying:

Ferdinand Piëch, the immensely powerful former chief of Volkswagen’s supervisory board, is more than likely the root cause of the VW diesel-emissions scandal. Whether he specifically asked for, tacitly approved, or was even aware of the company’s use of software to deliberately fudge EPA emissions testing is immaterial.


It’s what I call a reign of terror and a culture where performance was driven by fear and intimidation. He just says, “You will sell diesels in the U.S., and you will not fail. Do it, or I’ll find somebody who will.” The guy was absolutely brutal.

I imagine that at some point, the VW engineering team said to Piëch, “We don’t know how to pass the emissions test with the hardware we have.” The reply, in that culture, most likely was, “You will pass! I demand it! Or I’ll find someone who can do it!”

In these situations, your choice was immediate dismissal or find a way to pass the test and pay the consequences later. Human nature being what it is—if it’s lose your job today for sure or lose your job maybe a year from now, we always pick maybe a year from now.

Add to Volkswagen’s woes, the discovery of a second and completely separate range of impacted vehicles, powered by the three litre V6 turbo-diesel, mere weeks after making fairly explicit denials of any such possibility.

Audi USA has gone on the record to clarify details regarding the emissions testing issue with the Volkswagen Group’s 3.0-litre V6 TDI engine and how the company is progressing with the US authorities.

At the beginning of November, the United States’ Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a second notice of violation against the Volkswagen Group, claiming that certain cars powered by the company’s 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6 engines were fitted with a defeat device, which allowed it to illegally pass American emissions testing for NOx (oxides of nitrogen).

The EPA alleged that the engine’s control software was able to detect an emissions test and enter a “temperature conditioning” mode that limited the output of NOx. When the test is concluded, the engine reverts to operating in its regular configuration, emitting up to nine times the permitted levels of NOx.

Corporate cultural issues being what they are, I think it’s a sure bet that there’ll be more “surprises” like this before all is said and done, and I wouldn’t be too surprised to see issues beyond emissions appear as well.