back to article VW finds US$15 BEEELION under the couch to pay off US regulators

Volkswagen has reached a settlement in the USA – or rather, two settlements, since it had to satisfy both federal regulators and the State of California. Its troubles are far from over, and the up-to-US$14.7 billion settlement only covers part of the tab, because it only covers US complaints over the software cheat implemented …

  1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    This raises the obvious question

    If it was well known for 7 years, why it came to light ONLY when the oil prices tanked and the fraking investments started hurting so some increase in consumer petrol spending was on order.

    Coincidence? Do not think so. It has "Petrol Lobby" fingerprints all over it, same as California clean air regulations.

    1. fandom

      Re: This raises the obvious question

      So, the "Petrol lobby" created the scandal to make ICE engines look bad and press governments push for stricter controls and emission limits.

      Sure, makes sense to me.

      1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        Re: This raises the obvious question

        stricter controls and emission limits

        Stricter control on EGR diesel (as in 2.0 VW engines) means up to 20% higher consumption. In that case, it is because lower NO2 is achieved by reducing the engine efficiency. The mandatory emission fix as a side effect across the USA provided the petrol companies with several percent increase in revenue from diesel sales. So that alone would justify paying the necessary lobby money to get the hatchet job underway.

        In general, the more processing you put on the exhaust, the lower the mileage per gallon.

        The USA Oil lobby has fought very long and hard against diesel and is continuing to do so. Instead of a 2l diesel engine in USA they have to fit a 3.2l petrol - f.e. Nissan big models (just to be able to drive the car with all the stuff sitting on the exhaust). Instead of a 2.5 (D-Max, Toyota Hi-Lux) you often see 4-6l Petrols (Colorado, Tundra, etc). This is visible even for Petrol-only models. Where 1.0l or 1.3l Petrol such as the Yaris, Micra, etc is sufficient in Europe, the extra emission control results in a 1.5-2.0l being installed.

        That will consume petrol in vast quantities regardless of all the tech used to improve fuel economy. This is also why if you trace the money to the clean air acts (especially in their anti-diesel regs) in USA you always end up running into someone related to Big Oil.

        1. joed

          Re: This raises the obvious question

          I'm not sure about the petrol conspiracy but it's no secret that EPA appears to be schizophrenic regarding emissions turning blind eye to CO2 and allowing large vehicles exceptions. Some of EU pollution standards are actually stricter and it's our safety requirements that inflate even the smallest of cars here. Not to mention counterproductive arms race to bigger/stronger/safer(for whom?) prevalent on this side of the pond. Tax policy is probably the most important factor in keeping engine displacement and mass that can be moved with it in check. We have something like a "gas guzzler" tax but it's nowhere near displacement tax in EU. Add the gasoline tax to this and it's no wonder most EU citizens stick to/below 2.0 in a lighter vehicle. Narrow roads and parking spaces do play a role a well. Plus size bodies need plus sized vehicles too.

          On both sides the rules are gamed, by all companies. VW just got too greedy and stuck too far ahead of the line (and for too long).

  2. AndyS

    I suspect the other reason it didn't come to light for so long is that nobody's plate is completely clean (although VW's seems to have been particularly dirty). Having worked in the auto industry, it is openly acknowledged by the OEMs, the test houses and the government that a new, clean, more rigorous approach to testing is required. However until that is implemented, it will do nobody any favours to investigate the current methods of "passing" in too much detail.

    So, sweep out the entire house and start again. But until then, don't ask too many questions.

    1. annodomini2

      There is a political issue as well, the extreme greenies want a much greater reduction in emissions (for obvious reasons) than can realistically be achieved with the technology available at a cost effective rate.

      Automotive OEMs are driven by their markets and cost.

      The purchasers (in general) want a fast, cheap car, that doesn't break down and does 100mpg.

      Most governments are being pushed on AGW, which is pushed on the OEMs, who want the cheapest solution that appeases the regulators and their market.

  3. Oengus Silver badge

    Profit motive.

    I thought I heard/read somewhere that Mitsibushi had been caught out over/confessed to a similar thing but that it had been going on for 25 years.

    I am sure that they are not the only ones. It is only a matter of time before others are found.

    Some companies look at the cost of compliance vs the penalties for getting caught and just choose to break the rules. If they get found out, they take the fines as "the cost of doing business". So long as the penalties don't outstrip the profits the bean counters will always take the "least cost" option and hope they don't get caught while they are in the role.

    1. fandom

      Re: Profit motive.

      Not exactly, Mitsibushi falsified the fuel economy data, not emissions.

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: Profit motive.

        Mitsibushi falsified the fuel economy data, not emissions.

        It amounts to the same thing, CO₂ emissions figures depend on fuel consumption. VW's problem was that they falsified NOx emissions, which is a health issue, not just a tax one.

    2. Michael Strorm

      Re: Profit motive.

      "Some companies look at the cost of compliance vs the penalties for getting caught [and] take the fines as "the cost of doing business"."

      $15 billion here, $15 billion there... pretty soon that's going to add up to real money.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This does not address the root problem of emissions regulations that are not achievable in the real world with current technology. Car manufacturers have a choice of cheating the test or breaking the laws of physics. Some people aren't smart enough to understand why every single car manufacturer keeps choosing the former option.

    1. Ed_UK

      "This does not address the root problem of emissions regulations that are not achievable in the real world with current technology. Car manufacturers have a choice of cheating the test or breaking the laws of physics."

      Yes - that's why I'm waiting with interest to see what clever software solution they come up with. I'm assuming they'd tried pretty hard to beat the competition (on performance vs consumption vs emissions) by legal means before resorting to cheating.

      What will they pull out of the hat that they couldn't manage before? So far, I've had two letters from them to say the new software will be ready soon for my 2.0 litre lump. I expect those softies are under quite a bit of management pressure and I wish them well.

  5. James Hughes 1

    How many years of profit in the US is this fine (plus the others?).

    Is it actually worth competing in the US market - can VW simply pull out and ignore the fines? Or pay off existing customers so no-one is out of pocket, then refuses to pay the extra enviro-fines?

    Or just shut down completely?

    1. anothercynic Silver badge

      @James Hughes 1...

      That's not going to happen. VW has way too large an investment in the US (amongst others a rather large factory in the South and in Mexico).

      They'll suck up the fine and continue, and most consumers who drive 'cheater' cars will continue to do so where it suits their wallets (fuel economy = less hit on the wallet = better).

      And hey, the $10K given to drivers as 'penance' is not too bad either. ;-)

  6. chaosmagnet

    This seems like a textbook case of fraud. It's inexcusable that none of those responsible have been charged criminally yet.

  7. cs94njw

    So people bought cars with a certain expectation of emissions in mind. When it was proved false, they are going to get their money back.

    Yet when people vote in the EU Referendum with a certain expectation in mind. When it was proved false, they were told to stop whinging :(

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Realistically? I don't think anyone buying a car here in the States takes the emissions or the fuel economy labeling seriously. Ok.. maybe a few diehard greenies do. But I think the rest of us just look at it as a "guideline". We know the fuel consumption will be higher since that test if flawed and we assume the same for emissions. Crash testing... maybe we take it a bit more seriously.

      The fuel consumption test has been a joke since day one. No wind resistance... just run the car at certain speeds on a dyno. I understand now that part of this run on a test track. But way back when, if you dropped a 4 cylinder into a Cadillac instead of the 8 cylinder monster that was there, it suddenly got great mileage. It would barely move, but the fleet mileage goal became attainable since it was "an option".

  8. bonkers

    mini Haber processors

    The fines are just part of trying to sell into America, everyone gets clobbered at some point.

    In a very big wide open space like America, I think NOx emissions are an excellent means of creating bio-available Nitrogen. Did you know that over half of the worlds biomass is down to humans working out how to fix Nitrogen?

    I don't see why there's all this nonsense about NOx, makes me laugh it does.

    1. Michael Strorm

      Hope you don't confuse H2O and H2SO4 either...

      "I don't see why there's all this nonsense about NOx, makes me laugh it does."

      I see what you *think* you did there... but suffice it to say there aren't going to be many chortles if you get a mouthful of NOx rather than N2O. (^_^)

  9. MT Field

    Why do the Journo's have to call it a defeat device or even a "so-called defeat device" when its really an emissions-test cheat-mode. FFS. Almost as bad as referring to any kind of fault as a "glitch".

  10. jbrias


    What's with the BEEEllions? It's all over your daily.

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