Volkswagen Bragged About The Effects Of Diesel Cheating For Years

Illustration for article titled Volkswagen Bragged About The Effects Of Diesel Cheating For Years

When it was revealed that VW had installed cheating devices on diesel vehicles as far back as 2008, it was played off as a mistake unknown to most of the company. But back in 2008, VW’s marketing enjoyed exploiting the performance of the illegal technology, bragging that vehicles outperformed EPA testing in the real world.


As Consumer Reports points out, a 2008 press release shows Volkswagen bragging about the discrepancy of their diesel models’ real-world performance when compared to EPA testing:

“While the Environmental Protection Agency estimates the Jetta TDI at an economical 29 mpg city and 40 mpg highway, Volkswagen went a step further to show real world fuel economy of the Jetta TDI. Leading third-party certifier, AMCI, tested the Jetta TDI and found it performed 24 percent better in real world conditions, achieving 38 mpg in the city and 44 mpg on the highway.”

Of course real-world testing exceeded the numbers studied by the EPA testing! Volkswagen’s cheating device altered the car’s performance when it sensed it was being tested, switching into “cheat mode” and impacting efficiency, thus producing altered emissions and economy estimates.

When the performance-altering software fitted to the car sensed it wasn’t being tested, the car would achieve far better MPG estimates, while emitting far higher emissions than legally regulated - up to forty times more NOx emissions.

And CR says it’s these better-than-sticker estimates that pushed many people to go out and buy a diesel model over their gasoline and hybrid counterparts.

Consumer Reports also looked back at 16 diesel models they recently tested and found that only Volkswagen-branded diesel models exceeded the EPA-estimated MPG numbers. The signs have been there all along!


Perhaps the marketing department wasn’t aware of the technological trickery at play, but it was a clear motivator behind the initial decision to fit millions of diesel models with a cheating device. And it worked, as Volkswagen was the most popular brand for diesel models in the United States and elsewhere, having almost a 75 percent share in the diesel market.

Of the 11 million diesel Volkswagen Group models affected, how many do you think were sold based on their sticker-beating record? I’d wager quite a lot.





The EPA fines will be huge - as will the ones levied by all the other jurisdictions. The criminal liability for individuals involved (especially from the German prosecution of these cases - Germans are not fond of white collar crime) will also be significant from a justice perspective, and may create a bit of deterrent effect.

But the civil liability, now that could be the thing that does them in. 11 million vehicles. Each and every owner of one of those has a strong claim that they relied on performance experienced by magazine testers, other owners, and touted (as you point out here) by VW in their purchasing decision. And were misled, intentionally. And suffered damages as a result (reduced resale, hassle of fix, diminishes use value of car after fix). Make it a couple thousand per car, and you’re at 22 billion. Add some punitive damages in jurisdictions where that sort of thing can happen. Add the cost to defend against all that. Big dollars...