Emissions collusion between VW and German agency runs deep: magazine

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Volkswagen TDI 'clean diesel' television ad screencap

Volkswagen TDI 'clean diesel' television ad screencap

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As the Volkswagen diesel scandal lumbers onwards, German media outlets have often broken the latest news and revelations from deep inside VW Group.

While the German auto giant had hoped at first to have the issue largely wrapped up by now, the scandal first publicly revealed in September 2015 shows no signs of abating.

The updates to European-market diesel cars have been minor compared to the U.S. settlement, under which VW must buy back or modify almost half a million 2.0-liter diesel cars.

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But the scandal has shone a harsh light on European emission regulations and associated fuel-economy standards, including the process by which they're tested.

European car buyers already suffered from real-world fuel economy an average of 40 percent lower than published ratings, according to calculations by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) for the 2015 model year.

Now, a report from Germany suggests long and deep collusion between VW Group's brands and the German agency that regulates the emission compliance of its vehicles.

Volkswagen TDI diesel vehicles owned by Phil Grate and family, Seattle, Washington

Volkswagen TDI diesel vehicles owned by Phil Grate and family, Seattle, Washington

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The agency in question is the German Transport Ministry, and the report appeared in Stern magazine, based on documents leaked from that agency.

The article in Stern was covered 10 days ago by German international broadcaster Deutsche Welles.

In essence, the magazine says that the leaked documents indicate the ministry encouraged German carmakers to take advantage of multiple loopholes in the regulations during third-party tests on dynamometers, also known as "rolling roads."

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Those included taping over body seams, removing door mirrors, inflating tires far beyond their rated pressures, and other techniques to reduce aerodynamic drag and fuel consumption.

The ministry also hid the results of carbon-dioxide emission tests, the article claims—results that have still not been released.

While the environmental group Bund and several others have asked that all CO2 emission-test results be released by the Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA), those requests have always been refused on the grounds that tests are still underway.

2012 Volkswagen Passat TDI Six-Month Road Test

2012 Volkswagen Passat TDI Six-Month Road Test

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Cars in many European countries are taxed based on the levels of carbon dioxide they emit, meaning that if manufacturers knowingly minimized those numbers, they could be depriving the government of revenue—as much as 2.2 billion euros, according to a calculation by German environmental group DUH.

Car owners, meanwhile, pay an extra 450 euros ($480) in fuel costs per year owing to the lower real-world results versus the rated fuel economy.

In the case of the leaked documents, the ministry apparently acquiesced in a decision by VW Group to reduce the number of diesel vehicles within Germany that were affected by the "irregularities" associated with defeat-device software from 800,000 to 36,000.

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And, Stern reported, the company would simply say that the reasons for carbon-dioxide emission readings far higher than the permitted levels could not be determined.

With news like this continuing to emerge 14 months after the scandal broke publicly, VW Group's hopes of a speedy resolution seem long-gone.

In the U.S. meanwhile, the company is starting to issue buyback offers for 465,000 2.0-liter TDI diesels, but owners of 85,000 Audi, Porsche, and VW vehicles with larger 3.0-liter V-6 diesels still don't have an approved settlement for their cars.

[hat tip: George K]

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