Skip to main content

VW admits false carbon dioxide readings on 800,000 vehicles after engineer steps forward

VW admits false carbon dioxide readings on 800,000 vehicles after engineer steps forward

Share this story

Photo by Rob Stothard/Getty Images

Volkswagen's emissions scandal is just getting worse. After admitting in September that some 11 million of its vehicles cheated inspections and emitted up to 40 times allowed amounts of nitrogen oxides, the company now says that its fuel economy and carbon dioxide estimates on another 800,000 vehicles are also false.

The German carmaker admitted to the "unexplained inconsistencies" in carbon dioxide readings this past Tuesday. Today, Bild am Sonntag revealed just how those "inconsistencies" came about. According to the German paper's sources at Volkswagen, engineers would doctor emissions tests in a number of ways, including using artifically high tire pressures and adding diesel fuel to the engine oil mixture. Both led to improved fuel economy numbers.

"There were irregularities in communication of fuel consumption values."

The paper additionally claims that engineers couldn't match former CEO Martin Winterkorn's promise in 2012 that by 2015, carbon dioxide emissions from the company's vehicles would be 30 percent lower than they were in 2006. Employees, fearing the results of undershooting expectations, apparently decided to doctor the emissions tests instead.

It appears VW got away with it because Germany's Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA) relies on data from manufacturers' own tests. The US, meanwhile, doesn't measure carbon dioxide emissions from passenger vehicles, according to The New York Times.

CEO delivered the news to Chancellor Merkel in person

This latest scandal came to light after a VW engineer decided to bring the practice up to executives at the company, reports Bild am Sonntag. After the company confirmed the false readings, new CEO Matthias Müller and other executives traveled to Berlin to deliver the latest revelation in person to German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Both the initial scandal and this latest batch of 800,000 vehicles predominantly concern diesel vehicles, which are widely sold in Europe. The difference is in what type of emissions were misreported. The defeat device used on millions of VW vehicles obscured data on emissions of nitrogen oxides, which are damaging to the lungs. Carbon dioxide and fuel consumption, meanwhile, is tied to global warming. Some of the models with false readings emit 15 to 18 percent more carbon dioxide than was officially reported.

The models affected include the VW Golf, Passat, and Polo, as well as the Audi A1 and A3. Specifically, those equipped with EA 288 engines in 1.4-, 1.6-, and 2-liter varieties were found to have misreported emissions. A smaller number of gasoline models are also affected. The company announced this week that it was writing off an additional 2 billion Euros to account for the vehicles. The company may have to refund government tax credits in the EU that were based on the artificially low fuel economy readings. Those two billion Euros adds on to the tens of billions it has already saved to deal with the cheating software on other cars.