If you’re like me, you may not follow every big news story out there, especially when it comes to business. When Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner announced their split, I was all over it. But another car recall? I’ll check to see if my car is involved and if not, I’ll probably move along.
But the latest Volkswagen emissions recall and impending investigation is something that every car owner should be aware of. Let’s get the facts out there first.
Volkswagen consistently sells the highest number of diesel cars in the United States. You’ll find most of them badged with the initials TDI, which stands for Turbocharged Direct Injection. These aren’t the big purring diesel engines of the 70s that billowed black smoke everywhere they went. This is “clean diesel.”
“Clean diesel” is a automotive technology that uses cleaner fuel (ultra-low sulfur diesel), advanced engines, and emissions control technology. The result? A super efficient vehicle that averages 40+ mpg on the highway (you can read all about my long distance road trip in the Chevy Cruze Diesel).
And, if you’re super techie, you’ll also know that the diesels of today have fantastic torque, which equates to acceleration power. If you’ve never driven a car with good torque, you need to. You’ll get it right away.
Great fuel economy, amazing torque, and clean emissions – what’s not to love about today’s clean diesel?
Well, it’s when those emissions aren’t quite what you thought that you run into trouble. Or more specifically, when Volkswagen runs into trouble. The New York Times published a piece three days ago that cuts right to the heart of the matter:
“The Environmental Protection Agency accused the German automaker of using software to detect when the car is undergoing its periodic state emissions testing. Only during such tests are the cars’ full emissions control systems turned on. During normal driving situations, the controls are turned off, allowing the cars to spew as much as 40 times as much pollution as allowed under the Clean Air Act, the E.P.A. said.”
Even worse is that Volkswagen has admitted the deception. They’ve admitted to installing something called a “defeat device” that performs exactly what the E.P.A. claims.
Diesels are good. So why did they do it?
Because controlling emissions hinders the performance of a vehicle. And in a country like the United States that has the highest emission standards in the world but also demands high-performance vehicles, it’s a trade-off. They deceived the consumer and they deceived the government that regulates these issues.
What does that mean for them?
Well, so far, it means their stock has tanked. And it means they’ve been issued a notice of violation which is sure to results in some pretty hefty fines (rumored to be as high as $18 billion). As expected, they’ll also be recalling all affected vehicles to fix the issue at their expense.
What does it mean for you?
The first step is to check if your VW Diesel is affected. The recall covers roughly 482,000 diesel passenger cars sold in the United States since 2009.
Affected Volkswagen and Audi Diesel models include:
- 2009-2015 Volkswagen Jetta
- 2009-2015 Volkswagen Beetle
- 2009-2015 Volkswagen Golf
- 2014-2015 Volkswagen Passat
- 2009-2015 Audi A3
If your vehicle falls into one of these categories, you can expect to be contacted at some point over the next year with information about how and when to get your vehicle repaired. And if you’re ever in doubt as to whether or not your vehicle has a recall, you can always check via your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) at SaferCar.gov.
What does the future hold?
That’s a great question. Volkswagen arguably makes great cars. Personally, my family has owned a TDI Beetle and a Passat. I think it’s a shame that the company deceived so many people instead of simply resting of the laurels of a high quality vehicle.
They can recover. They’re committed to fuel-efficient vehicles as they expand their lines of electric and hybrid vehicles significantly by 2020. But there will be fallout and consequences.
Volkwagen has issued a statement from Prof. Dr. Martin Winterkorn, CEO of Volkswagen AG
Wolfsburg, September 20, 2015 – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board (EPA and CARB) revealed their findings that while testing diesel cars of the Volkswagen Group they have detected manipulations thatviolate American environmental standards.“The Board of Management at Volkswagen AG takes these findings very seriously. I personally am deeply sorry that we have broken the trust of our customers and the public. We will cooperate fully with the responsible agencies, with transparency and urgency, toclearly, openly, and completely establish all of the facts of this case. Volkswagen has ordered an external investigation of this matter.We do not and will not tolerate violations of any kind of our internal rules or of the law.The trust of our customers and the public is and continues to be our most important asset. We at Volkswagen will do everything that must be done in order to re-establish the trust that so many people have placed in us, and we will do everything necessary in order to reverse the damage this has caused. This matter has first priority for me, personally, and for our entire Board of Management.”
Tonight, members of the AGirlsGuidetoCars team will be attending a Volkswagen event debuting a refresh of its Passat sedan. Expected to attend are Herbert Diess, VW’s brand chief, Michael Horn, who runs the brand in the U.S., and musician Lenny Kravitz. We’ll be listening closely not only to the music but to the statements from the VW executives in attendance. Stay tuned for our full recap from the event.