2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDIEnlarge Photo
Last September, the EPA refused to certify VW's 2016 TDI models for sale, based on its real-world testing of the vehicle's emissions--which exceeded the legal limits, even though its lab tests didn't.
In a meeting on September 3, Volkswagen finally admitted that it had installed the "defeat" software. The EPA went public inside three weeks, during which time Volkswagen tried unsuccessfully to cut a deal with the angered regulators.
The full, formal six-page EPA letter sent Friday, September 18, is available here; it's worth reading for the details of VW's admission of guilt.
(6) Why didn't the EPA discover it before now?
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency doesn't test every new car for emissions compliance every year. Most buyers don't know that, though, since the EPA's name is on the official ratings.
Instead, manufacturers "self-certify" and submit their data to the EPA. The agency tests about 15 percent of the new cars that go on sale each year, but it simply doesn't have the resources--in staff or in funds--to test every new car.
It's worth noting that in the wake of fuel-efficiency rating reductions by Hyundai and Kia, and then by Ford (twice), the EPA has said it will step up its verification and may require manufacturers to confirm their lab results with on-road testing.
But that's in the future. The VW trickery was discovered by a third party, which then passed it along a chain of contacts until it reached CARB and the EPA.
(We've heard through the grapevine that ICCT shared its results with a Detroit Three automaker, which was actually the tipster to the EPA, but we've not been able to verify that--so treat it as rumor until proven otherwise.)
(7) What has VW said so far about the charges?
The company issued numerous statements, initially one from its U.S. arm and one from its German headquarters.
The U.S. statement, issued and updated on September 18, the day the EPA went public, said:
Volkswagen Group of America, Inc., Volkswagen AG and Audi AG received today notice from the US Environmental Protection Agency, US Department of Justice and the California Air Resources Board of an investigation related to certain emissions compliance matters. As environmental protection and sustainability are among Volkswagen's strategic corporate objectives, the company takes this matter very seriously and is cooperating with the investigation.
Volkswagen is committed to fixing this issue as soon as possible. We want to assure customers and owners of these models that their automobiles are safe to drive, and we are working to develop a remedy that meets emissions standards and satisfies our loyal and valued customers. Owners of these vehicles do not need to take any action at this time.
The German statement, issued two days later by the CEO of Volkswagen AG, Dr. Martin Winterkorn (who resigned the following week) read:
Thus far, no mention of any contact with the 480,000 owners of the affected vehicles has been released. It may be months before details of a specific fix are available.