In early November, two months after more than 11 million Volkswagen vehicles were found to be using software that deliberately underreported nitrous oxide emissions, the German car maker said that it had discovered that another 800,000 of its cars understated their carbon dioxide output and fuel efficiency. Volkswagen maintained that it only found out about the discrepancy in the wake of the wider diesel emissions scandal, but German newspaper Bild am Sonntag this weekend countered that assertion, reporting that Volkswagen executives knew about the false claims a full year ago.
The publication says that Martin Winterkorn, then Volkswagen's CEO, knew about the discrepancy in reporting by spring of 2015 at the latest. Winterkorn reportedly made the call to take VW's Polo TDI BlueMotion off the market this spring as a result of the car's heavily understated carbon emissions and overstated fuel efficiency — its real-world fuel consumption was 18 percent above its stated figure. But a Volkswagen spokesperson reiterated the company's previous justification for removing the car from sale. "The offering of the Blue Motion TDI Polo was suspended in all markets due to subdued demand," the spokers told the paper. "We are currently testing all models built from 2012 for differences in CO2 levels from the listed values."
Bild am Sonntag says VW pulled one car from sale because its fuel efficiency was so inaccurate
Winterkorn promised in 2012 that by 2015, fuel emissions would be down 30 percent on emissions from 2006. Bild am Sonntag said Volkswagen's engineers couldn't achieve that feat, and instead cheated emissions tests for 800,000 vehicles — sold mainly in Europe — by using artificially high tire pressures, adding diesel fuel to the engine oil mixture, and other methods.
Volkswagen has previously placed the blame on rogue elements inside the company for the emissions scandal, with Michael Horn, the CEO of VW's American division, blaming software engineers for the installation of the "defeat devices" used to cheat emissions tests. The new claims that executives did indeed know about such actions runs counter to this narrative, but won't affect Winterkorn at least — he stepped down from his position as Volkswagen CEO in late September. The company has declined to comment on whether any other executives remaining with the firm did indeed know about inaccuracies in stated fuel efficiency and carbon dioxide output.