Volkswagen Dieselgate update, 1 year later: U.S. diesels dead?

September 19, 2016

Yesterday marked a grim anniversary in the automotive world: one year earlier, on September 18, 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency publicly accused Volkswagen of equipping 482,000 Audi and VW diesels with defeat devices that allowed them to cheat on emissions tests.

The long, ugly saga that many now refer to as "Dieselgate" continues to make headlines, and sadly, it's far from over. For U.S. owners of the 2.0-liter diesels first implicated in the scandal, a compensation package was announced in June, but owners of 3.0-liter Audi, Porsche, and VW diesels are still in limbo, as are millions of motorists in other parts of the globe, where progress hasn't been quite as "swift".

And even after the last affected vehicles are repaired or sent to the crusher, Volkswagen will be dealing with fallout from the fiasco for many years to come. As proof, here are just a few of the Dieselgate headlines that have popped up over the past week:

1. The diesel may be dead (at least in the U.S.): Last week, a new VW model began rolling into showrooms, the 2017 VW Golf Alltrack wagon. It's the first new VW to arrive stateside since September 2015, and notably, it's not a diesel. Will diesels ever return? That remains to be seen, but if they do, they probably won't arrive in large numbers. The head of VW North America, Hinrich Woebcken, says that "Regulations have made diesel harder to do in the U.S. market anyway." Which is, of course, why Volkswagen engineers created defeat devices in the first place.

2. Key engineer could shed lots of light on the scandal: Volkswagen engineer James Robert Liang helped create the popular 2.0-liter diesel engine found in millions of vehicles implicated in Dieselgate. Facing a host of fraud and conspiracy charges, Liang has agreed to spill the beans on everything that he and his colleagues did to skirt the law. Salacious details to follow.

3. Bosch drawn further into Dieselgate inquiry: Initially, German supplier Bosch said that it had no knowledge of the defeat devices found on Volkswagen diesels. Over time, the company has had to walk back those statements, as documents have revealed just how much Bosch knew and when it knew it. U.S. prosecutors are now deciding whether Bosch's actions qualify as conspiracy or not, which could potentially lead to a set of criminal charges on top of the civil charges the company currently faces. Another supplier has been implicated, too--those in the know say it's IAV GmbH--and other companies could be involved as well.

4. Porsche sued: Another week, another Dieselgate lawsuit. This time, the lucky defendant is Porsche, which is being sued by investors who say that the company should've disclosed the diesel issue sooner. At stake: a tidy sum of 2.8 billion euros ($3.1 billion). 

5. VW teases EV concept images: In less than two weeks, auto journalists will descend on France for the 2016 Paris Motor Show. VW has already begun taunting us with teaser shots of a new electric car concept--presumably one of the 30+ EVs that the company has promised to roll out by 2025 in its quest to leave "clean diesel" behind. Stay tuned for details.

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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