2014 – True Emission Levels Unveiled
The discovery of Volkswagen’s false emissions level was, in fact, uncovered by accident.
In 2014, the US NGO International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) set out to prove modern diesels were clean and would bring down levels of CO2 emission and improve air quality.
They partnered with a team of PhD candidates from the University of West Virginia. Portable emissions testing equipment was fitted to three vehicles- two VWs and one BMW. The cars were then driven from San Diego to Seattle.
The Volkswagen Jetta exceeded NOx standard by 15 to 35 times the legal limit in the US. Yet, when similar vehicles were officially tested in the California Air Resources Board’s lab, they passed.
The discrepancies in emission levels led the US EPA to conduct an investigated in to the matter which led to the discovery of software called “the switch” which tracks the position of the steering wheel, vehicle speed, how long the engine is on and air pressure in order to gauge it is being subjected to an emission test.
The EPA presented an overwhelming amount of evidence to Volkswagen and forced them to admit to tampering with the emissions of their diesel vehicles.
September 2015 – Volkswagen admits to “screwing up”
In late September 2015, Volkswagen’s US CEO, Michael Horn admitted that the company “totally screwed up” by installing software that cheats US emissions tests.
Horn vowed to makes amends at the launch of their 2016 Passat in New York and said that the technology was the work of “a few engineers.” Volkswagen shares plunged nearly 20% a week after the admission.
The admission sparked concern across the globe, with the German Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, Sigmar Gabriel, expressing concern about the reputation damage the scandal would cause the German car industry.
It also prompted the EU to begin an investigation in emission levels at European levels. German authorities also began an investigation into the former chief executive of Volkswagen AG, Martin Winterkorn.
23 September – VW AG Chief Executive steps down
Martin Winterkorn, who had been CEO of the German company since 2007, resigned in late September over the fallout from the diesel emissions scandal. Winterkorn said he took full responsibility for the scandal but denied personal wrong doing.
He also said he was surprised that a company like Volkswagen was capable of such misconduct and said that his resignation would pave the way for a fresh start for the company.
Winterkorn was replaced by then Porsche CEO, Matthias Muller.
3 November – Scandal expands to CO2 emissions
On November 3rd, 2015, Volkswagen AG admitted to understating the levels of the CO2 emission in about 800,000 petrol cars mainly sold in Europe.
The company said that they discovered this while they were exploring the full extent of the diesel scandal.
Volkswagen Australia managing director Michael Bartsch said the VW Golf GTI, Golf R hatchbacks and the Skoda Octavia RS wagon 2016 models are on the list of vehicles with suspect CO2 levels. These three models are sold locally in Australia.
The local VW boss responded with “we simply don’t know” when asked how many petrol vehicles with false CO2 emissions levels were sold in Australia.
November 2015 – Questions about 3 litre engines
Around the same time as their CO2 emissions admission, Volkswagen Groups was hit with a second notice of violation by the US EPA, claiming that a further 8 diesel models were fitted with emissions test defeat devices – this time in 3.0 litre V6 turbo diesel engines.
EPA testing indicated that these vehicles emitted nine times the EPA standard of NOx (a generic term for the nitrogen oxides NO and NO2 ). The latest vehicles to be cited by the EPA are the 3.0-litre V6 TDI variants of the 2014 Volkswagen Touareg, 2015 Porsche Cayenne, 2016 Audi A6 Quattro, A7 Quattro, A8, A8L, and Q5.
Volkswagen AG issued a formal denial of the claims that stated emphatically that no software has been installed in the 3 litre diesel poser units.
Understandably, global authorities are sceptical about this denial.
30 October 2015 – Legal Action in Australia
On October 30th, 2015 Bannister Law launched the first Australian class action against Volkswagen Australia and Audi Australia.
The class actions were launched on the premise that under Australian Consumer Law, Volkswagen was to ensure that vehicles were fit for their purpose and free from defects.
As the company failed to do this, consumer are entitled to ask for a full refund of the purchase price or the diminished value of the vehicle.
26 November 2015- Court Proceedings Began in Australia
November 27th, 2015 saw the first Volkswagen hearing in Australia. At the hearing, Justice Lindsay Foster mandated that Volkswagen reconcile their position on the law suits before Christmas.
It was reported that Justice Foster also berated the German parent company for obstructing the proceedings, due to their lack of corporation. He warned that a “serious cost order” could be made against the companies if they put the parties to the time and expense of formally serving the claim outside the jurisdiction.
He also ordered Volkswagen to file a “concise narrative statement” by December 16 setting out any admissions and denials that they would be making.
The case will reconvene on December 17th, 2015.