Lawsuit: Bosch demanded legal protections from Volkswagen for developing defeat device

September 7, 2016

Akustikfunktion: that's not a typo, it's the code name for the defeat device that Bosch allegedly developed for Volkswagen diesels. According to a newly revised lawsuit, Bosch insisted that Volkswagen provide it with legal protections in exchange for making the device.

This isn't the first time that we've heard Bosch's name uttered in conjunction with the ongoing Dieselgate scandal. Earlier this year, Bosch said that its catalytic converters could fix 560,000 Audi, Porsche, and VW diesels in the U.S. that were illegally rigged to cheat on emissions tests. The irony was, Bosch designed the software that Audi engineers hacked to allow the cheats in the first place--though Bosch strenuously denied that it knew about any such illegalities. 

Those denials started to sound a bit disingenuous when information from a now-closed case was recently re-examined in Germany. The evidence in that case included information about the diesel engines that Bosch had developed for Volkswagen. The info dated from 2009, when the automaker first began installing the devices on vehicles.


In a completely different courtroom--one in San Francisco--a lawsuit filed on behalf of U.S. car owners has uncovered additional details about the relationship between Bosch and Volkswagen. Crucial to plaintiffs' case is a letter from Bosch to Volkswagen dated June 2, 2008.

Some parts of that letter were redacted, which hid a fair bit of information from plaintiffs and their attorneys. Last Friday, however, a full copy of the letter was made available, and what lay beneath the ink seems pretty damning to Bosch.

Most importantly, the letter refers to Bosch's development of its "akustikfunktion" for Volkswagen. The supplier clearly expected that the nature of the device would be discovered, because Bosch insisted that Volkswagen indemnify it.  

In the end, however, Volkswagen refused to offer any legal protections for Bosch. Even so, Bosch continued to produce and improve the defeat device until 2015. 

Bosch has already allotted 650 million euros ($731 million) to pay for fines, fees, and other expenses related to the Dieselgate scandal, but that sum was based on Bosch maintaining innocence. If this letter proves that the supplier was in cahoots with Volkswagen, the company's costs could go far, far higher.

Note: for purposes of clarity, "Volkswagen" has been used to refer to the Volkswagen Group parent company, while "VW" has been used to refer to the company's popular mass-market brand of automobiles.

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