VW TDI diesel emissions test cheating FAQ and timeline

Apr 22, 2016
VW TDI diesel emissions test cheating FAQ and timeline
  • Introduction

    This article summarizes all the most current information on the emissions cheating involved with Volkswagen's TDI diesel cars. This wiki article is maintained by YOU. Please edit the article by logging in and clicking the "edit" tab at the upper right. This FAQ article is a reference, not a discussion, so please post in the forums linked at the top if you wish to ask questions or comment. Please exclude any political opinions, guesses as to what will happen or did happen, and questions from this FAQ reference. For those kinds of comments, please post in the forums. Please do not link to external websites unless it's an original source reference. Please drag-drop documents or pictures as attachments into the reply box here for archiving as external sources can move. Here is how to attach or upload files if you're not sure: http://www.myturbodiesel.com/threads/how-to-upload-and-post-pictures-videos-or-attach-files.617/


    Acronyms and important definitions
    VW - duh. Volkswagen.
    VAG - Volkswagen Auto Group - VW, Audi, Porsche, Lamborghini, and Bentley. Also includes Skoda and Seat which were never sold in NA but are sold ROW.
    NA - North American - This market includes US and Canada. Grouped together for emissions and certification reasons.
    ROW - rest of world. Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, South America markets.
    ECU - electronic control unit - this is the main computer that controls the engine and emissions system.
    TDI - turbocharged direct injection - trademark of VAG. Other brands can't use this name so you only see it on VW/Audi.
    DPF - diesel particulate filter - read 1000q: DPF FAQ for detailed information on the system operation and components.
    Adblue - one trademark name for diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) - read 1000q: Adblue and DPF FAQ for more information.
    DEF - diesel exhaust fluid - fluid sprayed into the exhaust to control NOx emissions.
    NOx - nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide emissions. Creates smog. Main problem area in diesel emissions.
    SCR - Selective Catalytic Reduction - The process through which DEF is sprayed into the exhaust to reduce NOx.
    LNT - Lean NOx Trap - this is the system on most of the 2009-2014 models. It does not use any DEF and doesn't use SCR. This catalyst absorbs NOx and burns it off during a regen. The extra fuel to burn it off will lower fuel economy. Does not include the Passat TDI or the 2015 models because those use the new engine.
    CARB - California air resources board
    CR - common rail. New generation of engine introduced in 2009 to meet emissions. These use a very high pressure fuel rail common to multiple fuel injectors to inject the fuel.
    mk4, mk5, etc - mark 4, 5, 6, etc. generation of VW cars. VW's current lineup in NA is a mix of mk6 and mk7 cars. The mk7 started in 2013 in Europe but we just got it in NA with the 2015 Golf.
    EA189 - first generation 2.0 liter CR engine found in the 2009-2014 model year TDI. The only 4 cylinder TDI sold in NA. ROW had many engine options.
    EA288 - second generation 2.0L CR engine in 2015+ model year TDI. The engine and tuning are completely different from the EA189.

    2006 - The last model year of the mk4 and mk5 generation VW Jetta, Golf, and New Beetle TDI sold in NA. Goal of 800,000 units sold in NA (about a 300% increase) announced by CEO Winterkorn. The EA189 prototype is developed but is not yet ready.
    2008 - new CR mk5 Jetta TDI previewed. 2007-2008 is when the cheating software is most likely developed as the cars were certified in calendar year 2008. Early news reports cite sources familiar with the VW internal investigation as the software being installed in 2008.
    2009 - First model year of the CR engine mk5 Jetta and Sportwagen TDI.
    2010 - First model year of the new mk6 Golf with CR TDI engine. First model year of the Audi A3 TDI with CR engine.
    5/30/2014- Study by International Council on Clean Transportation with equipment from the West Virginia University finds that VW's TDI have way more emissions than stated. http://www.theicct.org/use-emissions-testing-light-duty-diesel-vehicles-us
    Late 2014 - VW begins to work on an ECU recall to fix emissions after being notified. CARB does testing to confirm the results, which still showed failure.
    Early-mid 2015 - VW begins to issue emissions service actions, reprogramming the ECU in NA TDI. The letter says you have to do it before you can re-register the car.
    9/18/2015 - EPA announcement of Clean Air Act violations because they found the cheating software: http://yosemite.epa.gov/opa/admpres...dfc8e33b5ab162b985257ec40057813b!opendocument
    9/18/2015 - EPA letter http://www3.epa.gov/otaq/cert/documents/vw-nov-caa-09-18-15.pdf
    9/18/2015 - Sales of all 4 cylinder new/certified pre-owned US TDI are stopped via VW USA's orders. 2016 models certification withheld by EPA so no sales on new models.
    9/18/2015 - CARB letter - http://www.arb.ca.gov/newsrel/in_use_compliance_letter.htm
    9/20/2015 - Statement by VW's CEO apologizing and beginning of independent investigation by VW. http://media.vw.com/release/1066/
    9/20/2015 - Canada announces stop sale of all 4 cylinder TDI models.
    9/22/2015 - VW CEO admits this defeat software is present on 11 million TDI models worldwide.
    9/23/2015 - VW CEO Winterkorn resigns and is replaced with Porsche CEO Müeller.
    9/27/2015 - Major German newspaper reports that Bosch warned VW in 2007 not to use certain software.
    9/27/2015 - US VW creates website http://vwdieselinfo.com for US owners with some info.
    9/2015 - Canada creates website for Canadian owners with some info: http://www.vwemissionsinfo.ca/
    9/27/2015 - VW announces they will "refit" 11 million cars. The actual fix is still unknown.
    9/27/2015 -Winfried Vahland announced as the new North American Region CEO and president. The reorganization was planned a while ago and is to decentralize managerial responsibility. Dr. Vahland formerly headed the successful China region.
    9/30/2015 - Green Car Journal recinds VW and Audi's 2009 Jetta and 2010 A3 Green Car of the Year awards.
    10/7/2015 - VW is supposed to reveal technical details behind a fix (source: New York Times)
    10/8/2015 - VW America boss Michael Horn testifies before United States House Energy and Commerce Committee. Says DPF based exhaust systems likely insufficient for fix by software alone. Retrofit for urea injection likely. Vehicles currently equipped with urea injection require only a software fix. (source: Business Insider (http://www.businessinsider.com/it-looks-like-vws-emission-cheating-fix-will-be-expensive-2015-10)
    10/12/2015 - VW UK boss Paul Willis testifies before members of parliament hardware fix would not be required in the UK. UK government previously stated recall would not be required for owners. (www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/industry/11926772/Watch-live-Volkswagen-emissions-scandal-UK-boss-Paul-Willis-appears-before-transport-select-committee.html, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/...take-part-in-Volkswagen-emissions-recall.html
    11/4/2015 - VW, Audi, and Porsche halt sales of cars with the 3.0L TDI engine. This includes the VW Touareg TDI, Audi Q7, A6, A7, A8 TDI, and Porsche Cayenne diesel, 2014-2016 models. The EPA claims that these models had cheating software but VAG denies this claim. The EPA says they have clear evidence but VAG has not yet admitted anything on these models.
    11/9/2015 VAG announces for US 2.0L TDI owners, a $500 voucher for credit to their dealerships for anything, 3 years 24 hour roadside assistance, and a $500 gift card as a gesture to restore goodwill. According to VW, accepting the money does not prevent any future lawsuit against them. (I would consult an attorney first).
    11/19/2015 VW and Audi USA admits to the EPA that the 3.0L engine cars also use emissions defeat devices.
    12/17/2015 VW USA hires the lawyer Kenneth Feinberg to administer an independent claims resolution process. This is where any settlement will go through.
    12/30/2015 VW Canada also announces a goodwill package matching the VW USA's offer.
    1/4/2016 The US federal government announces a lawsuit against VW.
    1/12/2016 CARB rejects VW's initial 2.0L engine fix because it didn't have enough detail or cover the effect upon mpg, emissions, and performance.
    Deadline of April 21, 2016 set by judge to hear a detailed fix before heading to trial (it will definitely get delayed again or settled before trial)
    4/21/16 VW and the federal government agree to offer to buy back any 2.0L TDI sold in NA or have the vehicle modified to meet emissions. Leasers can have their leases cancelled. Owners will also receive compensation of an unspecified amount. VW will also establish a remediation fund to compensate for the excess emissions.


    What models are affected? All TDI models in NA. This includes the:

    Jetta TDI (Model Years 2009 – 2015, includes the Jetta Sportwagen, Sportwagen, and Golf wagon)
    Beetle TDI (Model Years 2012 – 2015)
    Audi A3 TDI (Model Years 2010 – 2015)
    Golf TDI (Model Years 2010 – 2015)
    Passat TDI (Model Years 2012-2015)
    Touareg/Cayenne/Audi Q7/A6/A8
    Many European models. Please note that the above list includes a mix of engine models, tunes, and generations.

    What about the 3.0L engine TDI models?
    The VW Touareg TDI, Audi Q7 TDI, Audi A6/A7/A8 TDI, Porsche Cayenne TDI were also found to be using an emissions defeat device. These VAG diesels use the 3.0L TDI engine and a completely different emissions system. There is also a stop sale that applies to these. After initially denying it, VW USA and Audi USA admitted they also use emissions defeat devices.

    How did they discover this?
    The EPA relies on self reporting for most data. The International Council on Clean Transportation borrowed equipment from West Virginia University to prove that TDI were clean. They drove from San Diego to Seattle for real world data vs. lab testing. Lab testing involves putting the car on rollers and sticking a sniffer probe in the tailpipe. This can be gamed many ways, including noticing if the steering wheel is moving (it can detect tiny one degree movement), if the inertia sensors sense any movement, seeing that the car's speed is not consistent with engine load (the rollers don't weigh the same as the car), seeing engine run time, or seeing that the front drive wheels are moving but the rear wheels, which aren't on the rollers, are not moving.

    Their real world tests involved sophisticated test equipment in the trunk that that captured all of the exhaust out of the tailpipe. The LNT cars exceeded NOx emissions by 15-35x and the DEF Passat was 5-20x over.

    VW issued a new ECU tune which was supposed to fix this and CARB did follow up testing which failed. CARB notified the EPA which lead to the EPA's investigation. The EPA found VW's answers unsatisfactory and withheld certification on the 2016 models which should have been sold and released to the public by now (Sept 2015). Then, VW admitted using the defeat software and the CEO apologized and resigned.

    Why did they do this?
    To meet emissions standards. The software can tell when it's being tested and then operates at 100%. When it's not being tested, it reduces operation so it puts out more NOx emissions. Anything more is a speculation, and at this point there's a lot of it. It could be years before we know half the story and know how VW's fix affects mechanical longevity, power, or resale.

    Who is responsible for this?
    We don't know. Please post any speculation in the forums.

    Can I buy a TDI in NA?
    New cars? No, stop sale orders have been issued in the US and Canada on any remaining 2015 and all new 2016. This includes any certified pre-owned through a dealer. You can still buy one used through a private party or a used car through a dealer that isn't CPO (although dealers have been recommended to not sell any used). Dealers finance their inventory so VW is reimbursing them on new TDI that they got.

    How can VW fix this?
    The most likely solution is a ECU update to change how the emissions system works. It's unknown exactly what the effect on mpg or power will be. Retrofitting a DEF system to a car without one will cost much more initially because it will require adding a DEF tank, plumbing and wiring, and major components in the emissions system. The catalysts contain precious metals and cost thousands of dollars at retail pricing. At this time, buybacks are probable for the oldest cars because the cost and complexity of retrofitting the systems is close to the value of the car.

    How do other diesel car makers pass?
    They mostly use DEF. NOx emissions go up with engine load which is related to car mass. VW was the only one who was able to get away with passing emissions without using a DEF system. Their heavier SUV and Passat TDI used DEF. The Chevy Cruze diesel is currently the only other light 4 cylinder diesel for sale in NA and it uses DEF. Mazda and Honda wanted to sell diesels in NA but couldn't pass emissions without using DEF, which was a goal for their programs.

    If the Passat TDI used DEF, why did it fail?
    I don't know, but it did. The most likely reason was to extend the DEF service intervals. The engine and emissions system on the Passat is different than the other listed models. The failure wasn't as bad as the Jetta/Golf/Sportwagen which all use their own engine and emissions, but it was still grossly out of bounds.

    What is the penalty for VW?
    The potential penalty has been quoted at $18 billion because they sold 482,000 of the offending models, each with a potential $37,500 fine. The actual penalty they will pay is yet to be determined. The full fine would crush VW and could cause their withdrawal from the NA market since the NA market is small compared to their ROW market. Their Mexico plant and Tennessee plant would suffer and politicians would not allow that to happen.

    Is it safe to drive my TDI?
    The issue is emissions; it is otherwise considered safe and legal to drive your car.

    Will they buy back my car?
    They agreed to offer buy backs to owners in their court hearing April 21, 2016. You have two years once the deal is finalized to decide if you want to accept a buy back. The dollar amount isn't set and you don't have to accept the buy back. You still have the option of suing VW yourself or having the car modified to meet emissions. You can also receive compensation of an unspecified amount. These amounts will be determined later.

    The buy back value won't be for the purchase price since you don't have a new unregistered car. You have a used car that has depreciated since the purchase. There are a few isolated cases of owners successfully documenting and applying their state's lemon laws to have VW buy the car back (before the settlement and not for the new purchase price since you've used it). Laws vary by state and VW will throw some legal weight to stop it so consult your attorney for details.

    False advertising!
    TDI tended to get higher than EPA rating and you can manipulate the tune so that peak (advertised) power is still the same, while the total power (area under the curve) is significantly less. In most cars, unless you zinged your engine to redline, you were never using advertised peak power anyways. And while the power range where you'll use the engine may be weaker, that was never advertised, so no claims of false advertising. There are possible claims against the "Clean diesel" and emissions level advertising though.

    What's the news with the class action lawsuit?
    I am not an attorney and this is not legal advice. I asked some attorneys to explain it to me so here's some hearsay. The first 50 or so cases have already been filed. The cases will go to the federal level where a judge will group them into a class action lawsuit. This will probably take up to a year. There will be a few larger law firms that take leadership roles and organize the case.

    Then, they will determine damages and remedies. This could be as little as a coupon for a free oil change (unlikely) all the way to a buyback of your car for the original purchase price. There's no way to know what will happen. Some quick math of the buyback means they'd spend well over $12 billion to do that, just for the US market cars! Would a buyback be possible? Incredibly, yes because there's precedent for buybacks. The problem is that buybacks usually occur quickly whereas the length of the deception across many models and engine generations means there's a wide variation in mileage, age, purchase price, and depreciation. This would also prove incredibly damaging to VW's business which is tied into some US states and German government and is unlikely to happen. VW has announced plans to refit the cars but it's unknown exactly what they'll do.

    After a few years of hearing experts and legal/political wrangling, the judge will most likely approve a settlement. Class members can accept or opt out to pursue their own claims. There may be subclasses related to claims in individual states.

    What is the goodwill package?
    This is a $500 credit to a VW dealership, $500 gift card (it's like cash), and 3 years of 24 hour roadside assistance. As of this writing, it applies only to the 2.0L engine TDI. Please post in this thread for any questions regarding the goodwill package: http://www.myturbodiesel.com/threads/poll-will-you-accept-vws-500-credit-and-500-cash-offer.28971/

    What is the future of diesel in NA?

    Big rigs and domestic trucks will still continue to use diesel engines. The future of light 4 cylinder diesels in passenger cars is unknown and without a crystal ball, we couldn't tell you. Only around 3% of cars in the US are diesel and that includes the diesel pickups.

    What is the future of diesel in Europe?
    The European market is why VW makes diesels. Until the 2009-2015 models, VW sold very few TDI in NA and didn't care much about our market. The 2009+ models were sold in much higher volume, around 20% of VW's sales volume and 90% of their Sportwagen model. In Europe, 50% of their sales are diesels because Europe is more diesel friendly due to market, regulations, and taxes. NA seems to like hybrids but Europe doesn't. Europe seems to like diesels but not hybrids. Because of this, VW has invested tons of resources in diesels and is only recently beginning to seriously invest in hybrids. Cheating on emissions has a larger effect on air quality there because they have more diesel. So we don't know but VW is invested much more over there.

    What's the big deal? GM killed people with the delay on their ignition switch recall.
    First, that is a separate issue. I'm addressing it here because this comment comes up often. Every car company deals with a constant stream of people dying in their product and the associated inquires and lawsuits. It peaked in the 1970's with 50,000 deaths/year in the US but due to safer cars it's down to around 33,000/yr today, despite more people and miles driven. They have to weigh the cost of making a change to their product vs. the cost of payouts and bad PR. GM didn't intend to make a bad switch. VW intended to cheat the system and there are an estimated 5-6,000 premature deaths/year from diesel exhaust in the UK. The courts, VW, and politicians will negotiate a value.

    I'm done with VW but I still want to drive a diesel. What other models are available?
    The Chevy Cruze is the most comparable model to the recalled cars. It's reasonably priced, drives well, and at this time there's no reason to believe it doesn't pass emissions. Read my buying guide and test drive here: http://www.myturbodiesel.com/wiki/buying-guide-for-chevy-cruze-diesel/

    BMW and Mercedes offer diesel engines in a few models that pass emissions but those are all much more expensive than most VAG models and in another price class.