The software designed to bamboozle diesel emissions tests in the United States could be lurking in the engines of Volkswagen vehicles in New Zealand –“we just don’t know yet,” said VW general manager Tom Ruddenklau. “We haven’t had confirmation around what vehicles could be implicated,” he said. “Every day is a new chapter. We are still gathering information and our most important job now is to communicate it to our customers.”Revelations that VW rigged emissions tests to fool the Environmental Protection Agency in the US has led to
the resignation of the company’s CEO Martin Winterkorn and further moves by the EPA to test diesel engines used by VW Group stablemates Audi and Porsche. The EPA found that 482,000 VW diesel vehicles (Golf, Passat, Beetle) sold in the US emitted much higher levels of NOx (oxides of nitrogen) exhaust pollution in normal use than tests showed. VW admitted that 11 million vehicles worldwide used the same offending software. It has set aside around $NZ10 billion to cover the costs of the scandal. US lawyers say VW dealers could sue VW for damaging the brand and, in turn, hurting the dealers’ livelihood. Fines could total US$19 billion. The engine at the centre of it is a 2.0-litre diesel unit. Ruddenklau hasn’t been able to identify how many in NZ might have the software. “We received nothing overnight from the factory, but they did say the Euro6 engine was not implicated,” he said. Euro6 is the diesel engine in the latest Passat. Ruddenklau said the scandal had gone beyond being technical. “This is a trust issue and we are going to have to work really hard to rebuild trust – that’s what it comes down to. “We are really committed to doing what is right for our customers. Until we have more information we can’t answer a lot of questions,” he said. VW Group diesel engines are also used in Audi, Skoda, and Porsche vehicles. New Zealand doesn’t have an emissions test or an emissions standard. A rule of thumb has it that average fleet emissions in 2013 were around 190grams of C02 per kilometre. The Labour Party was planning a 170gr/km limit by 2015, but this was scrapped when National took power. Meanwhile, global business analysts have praised VW for acting quickly while acknowledging the carmaker has a tough road ahead to regain buyers’ confidence. One American businessman told a BBC interviewer that VW did what General Motors didn’t do – front up. He was talking about how GM tried for years to hide a faulty ignition that caused more than 100 deaths on US roads. GM was recently fined $US900 million. It is also facing numerous law suits for wrongful death. The VW case isn’t the first instance of carmakers using ‘cheating’ devices. VW has been caught before, so too GM, Ford, and American Honda. VW was fined US$120,000 in 1974 for not disclosing the existence of a device that modified emissions on about 25,000 vehicles. In 1995, GM was fined US$45 million for doing something similar to 470,000 Cadillacs. In 1998, Ford and American Honda were both fined millions of dollars to settle emission-cheating charges by the EPA.
- VW Group vehicles are distributed in NZ by the Giltrap Group company, European Motor Distributors. The photo at top shows Ruddenklau (left), Audi NZ manager Dean Sheed (centre) and EMD Group manager Glynn Tulloch.