2014 Volkswagen Passat TDI

2014 Volkswagen Passat TDI

German supplier Bosch, the longtime manufacturer of fuel-system and emissions components to Volkswagen, warned the automaker that using software that would circumvent emissions rules in normal, publicly sold vehicles was illegal.

That wasn’t last week, or earlier this year. It was in 2007—a full year before many of the “clean diesel” TDI vehicles affected by Volkswagen’s diesel-emissions scandal

According to a report from the German weekend newspaper, Bild am Sonntag, the supplier wrote to VW to warn the automaker of using its so-called “defeat device,” which would operate the vehicle while using its emissions controls to their full extent during a recognized emissions test and then allow a dirtier emissions mode the rest of the time—with up to 40 times more oxides of nitrogen in real-world driving conditions.

The issue affects models with the 2.0-liter TDI diesel engine, including the 2009-2015 Volkswagen Jetta, 2014-2015 Passat, 2009-2015 Beetle, 2009-2015 Golf, and 2009-2015 Audi A3.

The automaker, in an era of intense cost-cutting, was concerned about the additional cost of exhaust-gas treatment with a urea-based system—the method that all other U.S. market diesels currently use for bringing NOx within legal limits. According to Automotive News, an AdBlue exhaust-treatment system would have cost an extra $335 per vehicle

$165 million seems so cheap now, doesn't it?

That’s about $165 million in extra money spent on over six years on its 492,000 four-cylinder TDI vehicles affected by the scandal—small change next to the billions that they now face in federal fines.

And that’s before the costs of properly fixing the cars, satisfying unhappy customers and class-action lawsuits, and starting to repair the brand.

John and Helen Taylor achieve 1,626 miles on a tank of Diesel in a VW Passat TDI

John and Helen Taylor achieve 1,626 miles on a tank of Diesel in a VW Passat TDI

Investigations have indeed been announced in the U.S., Germany, the UK, Switzerland, Italy, France, South Korea, Canada, Norway, and India.

Here in the U.S.—and we suspect elsewhere in the world—Volkswagen TDI owners, many of which bought their vehicle under the ‘clean diesel’ banner and the allusion they were getting an especially environmentally sound model, are understandably hurt, confused, and disillusioned with the brand.

Plenty have made their thoughts about the brand public, with some pledging not to buy a VW product again, and others asking how they might turn their vehicle back in for a full refund. But Volkswagen hasn't yet provided answers to most of the common questions regarding the diesel issue.

Bosch supplied common-rail fuel-injection systems for all of the affected models, as well as exhaust after-treatment (urea injection) systems that went into many other models.

The beginning of the end for diesels?

The scandal will likely add up to a tremendous loss for Bosch, too, as sales of diesel markets in the U.S.—and possibly globally—might never recover to the levels they had been. It could actually signal a tipping point where diesels fall from favor.

“How these components are calibrated and integrated into complete vehicle systems is the responsibility of each automaker,” said Bosch in last week’s statement. While that may sound like shirking of responsibility, that represents the typical arrangement between automaker and supplier.

But it begs the question: If teams at Bosch knew that the system was installed in normal-production vehicles, what legal responsibility did it have to notify authorities?

That question, and plenty more, are certainly being investigated by governments, legal firms, and VW itself.


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