The upcoming movie based on the upcoming novel based on the Volkswagen Dieselgate scandal just got a new plot twist. Yesterday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency accused the automaker of installing emissions-test-cheating software on over 10,000 diesel vehicles from Audi, Porsche, and VW.
Until now, Volkswagen's problems have been centered on 2.0-liter "clean diesel" engines found in smaller passenger vehicles like the VW Jetta and VW Golf made for the 2009 to 2015 model-years. That translates into about 482,000 vehicles in the U.S. and 11 million vehicles worldwide.
With these new accusations, however, the EPA has broadened the population of vehicles under suspicion to include those with 3.0-liter diesel engines from across the Volkswagen family, manufactured for the 2014, 2015, and 2016 model-years. The list of models affected includes (but may not be limited to):
- 2016 Audi A6 Quattro
- 2016 Audi A7 Quattro
- 2016 Audi A8
- 2016 Audi A8L
- 2016 Audi Q5
- 2015 Porsche Cayenne
- 2014 VW Touareg
The EPA provided a rundown of how the software works:
"When the vehicle senses that it is undergoing a federal emissions test procedure, it operates in a low NOx 'temperature conditioning' mode. Under that mode, the vehicle meets emission standards. At exactly one second after the completion of the initial phases of the standard test procedure, the vehicle immediately changes a number of operating parameters that increase NOx emissions and indicates in the software that it is transitioning to 'normal mode,' where emissions of NOx increase up to nine times the EPA standard, depending on the vehicle and type of driving conditions. In other tests where the vehicle does not experience driving conditions similar to the start of the federal test procedure, the emissions are higher from the start, consistent with 'normal mode.'
So far, only Porsche has issued a statement in response, saying only that "We are surprised to learn this information. Until this notice, all of our information was that the Porsche Cayenne Diesel is fully compliant." Depending on how the EPA's investigation goes, Volkswagen's new CEO -- former Porsche head honcho Matthias Muller -- may need to update his resume.
Meanwhile, Detroit News reports that reps from Volkswagen's German headquarters deny the EPA's allegations.
And in a move that speaks volumes, Audi has refused to suspend sales of its 2016 diesel vehicles. The EPA could force Audi to do so by revoking the approval needed to sell them.
You knew this was coming. When you heard about the defeat devices on 2.0-liter vehicles, you knew that any company willing to do something that brazen was likely to do other appalling things.
Similarly, when Volkswagen's U.S. chief, Michael Horn, told Congress that just three Volkswagen employees knew about the software that allowed diesel vehicles to cheat on emissions tests, you knew that he was probably wrong. In fact, if you've been around the block a few times, you may have had a hunch that he was woefully misinformed.
Our only question is: How deep does the rabbit hole go? How many other shoes will drop before Volkswagen cries "Uncle!" and comes clean?
You can read the "Notice of Violation" that the EPA sent to Volkswagen here. And to see how Volkswagen's software affects performance on diesel vehicles, check out the video above.