Volkswagen Dieselgate Update: VW, Audi, Say Problems & Fixes Are Simpler, Cheaper Than Expected

December 10, 2015

After nearly three months of brutal headlines, there's finally some good news to report about the ongoing Volkswagen Dieselgate fiasco. (Well, good in the sense that it's not as bad as all the other stuff.)

First, you may remember that on November 4 of this year, Volkswagen said that 800,000 of its VW vehicles in Europe may be emitting more CO2 than previously believed. As it turns out, that's not the case. After tests were conducted, Volkswagen found that just nine European variants of the VW Golf, Jetta, Passat, Polo, and Sirocco are pumping out slightly more CO2 than expected. The automaker says that the figures for those vehicles will require minimal adjustments, but the cars themselves weren't tampered with, and they won't require repairs. The number of vehicles affected has been reduced to about 36,000. 

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Second, Volkswagen subsidiary Audi says that it has a simple fix for some 85,000 larger, 3.0-liter diesel vehicles equipped with software designed to cheat on emissions tests. Though the company hasn't provided details of the repair process, it should apply to not only Audi models, but also those from Porsche and VW that use Audi's 3.0-liter engines. Like the fix proposed for smaller VW and other diesels, the fix is also rumored to be far cheaper than initially feared. Whether it will work on U.S. models, which are subject to tighter regulation in this particular case, remains to be seen.

Last but not least, at a press conference today, Volkswagen's board chair Hans Dieter Poetsch reiterated the company's guilt in producing diesel vehicles designed to cheat on emissions tests. However, he said that the misdeeds appear to be the work of a very small group of employees, including nine who have already been suspended. That number could grow, though, since records from 400 employees are being investigated.

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Poetsch noted that the trouble began in 2005 when the U.S. instituted tougher restrictions on nitrogen oxide emissions, and Volkswagen engineers "could not find a way" to achieve the higher standards. That might just be Poetsch pinpointing the origins of the problem, or a not-entirely-subtle means of shifting blame. Your call.

Before closing his remarks, Poetsch said that he believed Volkswagen's finances were strong enough to weather the storm of Dieselgate without selling any of its many, many brands. We'll know more about the accuracy of his statements when all the fines, court costs, and fixes are tallied up.

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