Volkswagen Admits Audis Were Cheating Emissions In Addition To That Other Cheat, Sorry

It’s true that emissions standards and regulations are tightening across the board. Complying requires extensive research and testing. What automakers shouldn’t do is implement a steering wheel cheat for emissions testing like Audi did, especially because of the other unpleasantness currently happening.

The California Air Resources Board figured out Audi’s cheat earlier this month and Volkswagen confirmed it over the weekend, reports Reuters. From the story:

“Adaptive shift programs can lead to incorrect and non-reproducible results” when the cars are tested, VW said by email on Sunday in response to an article published in Germany’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung on Saturday.

If the software that controlled the automatic transmissions of certain Audi models detected testing conditions, the cars shifted more rapidly and in a way that would lower emissions of CO2 as well as nitric oxides, Sueddeutsche Zeitung said, citing a confidential VW document.


The way the Audi cheat worked was that upon start-up, the transmission would be engaged in a “low CO2 program,” shifting gears in a manner that would keep emissions and engine revs low.

Turning the steering wheel more than 15 degrees disengaged the setting and put the car back into its more pollutant ways. Audi supposedly figured that under an emissions test, nobody would be turning the wheel more than 15 degrees.

The Feds are currently trying to determine whether this counts as a defeat device in a gas-powered car. Currently, two class-action lawsuits have been filed against Audi over the steering cheat.

Writer at Jalopnik and consumer of many noodles.

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This is really not a good thing for Volkswagen. Having worked in the auto industry for a long time, I appreciate the enormous pressure VW engineers were under to “perform, and perform to a budget.” It was in fact possible, given compartmentalization within any carmaker (and that goes double for the notoriously Byzantine and complex workings of Volkswagen), that, as they claim, “only a few engineers” were responsible for the diesel cheat. Plausible. Not necessarily likely, but at least possible.

But here’s the rub. It’s very unlikely that such a bad idea gets invented twice within a given automaker without higher-level knowledge. And even worse, this recent cheat was not discovered until recently, despite the team of lawyers from Jones Day and VW’s own internal investigations, trying to flush all the information out into the daylight that was even remotely related to cheating.

Bottom Line: You have a problem. You say you’re sincere in your efforts to fix it, that it was isolated, and that you’ve fixed the system so that it will never happen again. Then you find another problem, nearly identical to the first, going on at the same time as the first. That’s pretty much all the evidence anybody needs to convince a jury that a deliberate cover-up was taking place.