Volkswagen – parent company of both Audi and Porsche – admitted to using a “defeat device” on some of its diesel engines in order to get around tight US emissions standards.
This is a big deal for a number of reasons, but two that quickly come to mind are 1) the automaker had the cojones to advertise these cars as “clean diesels” and 2) because of the success of that campaign they owned 70% of the US passenger-car diesel market1.
How They Did It
The Environmental Protection Agency added some strict emissions standards in 2008 that left automakers with one choice – sacrifice power and performance in the name of emissions. From VWProblems.com:
“To meet the new regulations, many car companies started adding tanks of a urea-based solution – known as AdBlue – to their vehicles. Thanks the magic of chemistry, the ammonia in AdBlue helps the catalytic converter take nasty gasses like nitrous oxide (NOx) and convert them into nitrogen and water.”
VW skipped the urea-based solution (AdBlue) in their Cayenne diesel, but managed to maintain fuel economy and power. It felt like a miracle. As we know now, it wasn’t.
“_Software running in the car’s engine control module (ECM) monitors the car’s steering wheel position, speed, duration of engine operation and barometric pressure. This “defeat device” then uses those factors to determine when the car is being driven normally (aka “drive mode”) and when it was being inspected for emissions output (aka “cheat mode”).
While in “cheat mode,” the software activates equipment to reduce the car’s emissions levels. As soon as testing is over, it’s back to dirty driving._”
The end result was a car that tested for 40x less NOx emissions than it was actually putting out in the real-world.
Which Vehicles Have Defeat Devices?
Only one Porsche model has the defeat device, here’s the whole list.
- 2013–2016 Porsche Cayenne Diesel 3.0L V-6
- 2009–2015 Volkswagen Jetta 2.0L TDI
- 2010–2015 Volkswagen Golf 2.0L TDI
- 2010–2015 Audi A3 2.0L TDI
- 2012–2015 Volkswagen Beetle 2.0L TDI
- 2012–2015 Volkswagen Passat 2.0L TDI
- 2009–2015 Audi Q7 3.0L V-6 TDI
- 2009–2016 Volkswagen Touareg 3.0L V-6 TDI
- 2014–2016 Audi A6 3.0L V-6 TDI
- 2014–2016 Audi A7 3.0L V-6 TDI
- 2014–2016 Audi A8/A8L 3.0L V-6 TDI
- 2014–2016 Audi Q5 3.0L V-6 TDI
Settlement Information for 3-Liter Porsche Diesels
On December 21, 2016, VW reached a settlement with 83,000 owners and lessees of 3.0-liter diesel models.
“Under the proposed 3-liter diesel agreement, Volkswagen will be allowed to recall more than 75 percent of the illegal vehicles to fix them and bring them into compliance with emissions laws. The settlement agreement could mean another $1 billion loss for VW, adding to the $15 billion to be paid for illegal 2-liter vehicles.
Then in early February of 2017, additional settlement details were released.
While Cayenne TDI owners won’t have a buy-back option, they will all get a government-approved fix that VW says won’t affect performance. But that’s not all they’re getting:
“Once the repairs are approved, owners and lessees will keep their vehicles and each receive compensation ranging from $8,539 to $17,614. Former owners of the newer cars will each receive $4,269 to $8,807 in compensation.”
Even people who don’t own a Cayenne Diesel anymore may be eligible for a good chunk of cash. And for people leasing, they’ll be getting a check and the option to terminate their lease early.
The registration deadline to be eligible for the buyback in March 31, 2019.
When Will VW Fix My Car?
Owners who are part of the recall will receive a cash payment as compensation. Details on that are pending.
Eventually, the Cayenne Diesel will need to be recalled and fixed to meet EPA regulations. Generation 2 engines will be formally recalled at some point and will most likely receive a software update.
From “Everything You Need to Know about the VW Diesel-Emissions Scandal” by caranddriver.com ↩