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When you think Porsche, you think small, sleek, speedy two-seaters. In fact, Volkswagen, which makes Porsches, has been marketing the Porsche Cayenne SUV for 13 years.
Now the aero-looking vehicle is caught up in the scandal involving VW’s use of software in diesel models that tricks emission-testing equipment into thinking its engine is cleaner than it actually is. This adds Porsche and Audi vehicles to VW’s diesel-powered Beetles, Golfs, Jettas and Passats already known to carry the “defeat device,” as it is called.
The new revelation by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) raises further questions about how honest senior VW management has been about the problem. When news of the cheating first broke in September, the German automaker promptly admitted to the use of the software in 11 million cars sold globally, all with the VW brand. Nearly 500,000 of these vehicles were sold in the United States.
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Now, according to the EPA, that number has grown by more than 10,000 in the United States alone. Globally, the number could be significantly higher, given VW’s relatively small footprint in the U.S. market.
The cars carrying the cheating software include diesel versions of the 2014 VW Touareg, the 2015 Cayenne, and the following 2016 Audi models: the A6 Quattro; the A7 Quattro, the A8, the A8L and the Q5. All seven models have 3.0-liter engines.
VW is already facing $18 billion in penalties under the U.S. Clean Air Act. If the EPA’s latest accusation is true, it could cost the automaker more than $375 million in additional fines. VW, the world’s second-largest automaker, also said it plans to spend $7.3 billion to cover a recall of the 11 billion cars previous affected. The scandal also led to the resignation of VW’s CEO, Martin Winterkorn.
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“VW has once again failed its obligation to comply with the law that protects air quality for all Americans,” Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, said in a conference call with reporters. “We have clear evidence of these additional violations, and we thought it was important to put Volkswagen on notice and to inform the public.”
The VW software is designed to defeat emissions tests, making them record only a small fraction of the amount of nitrogen oxide (NOx) that the cars actually emit during normal driving. The EPA says nitrogen oxide has been linked to human respiratory diseases.
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Michael Horn, the president and CEO of Volkswagen of America, told Congress that the company’s top management was unaware of the presence of the “defeat device.” In testimony Oct. 8 before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee, he blamed the scandal on “a couple of software engineers who put [the rogue program] in for whatever reason.”
The EPA said the software “senses when the vehicle is being tested” for emissions. “When the vehicle senses that it is undergoing a federal emissions test procedure, it operates in a low NOx ‘temperature conditioning’ mode. Under that mode, the vehicle meets emission standards.
“At exactly one second after the completion of the initial phases of the standard test procedure,” it said, “the vehicle immediately changes a number of operating parameters that increase NOx emissions and indicates in the software that it is transitioning to ‘normal mode,’ where emissions of NOx increase up to nine times the EPA standard, depending on the vehicle and type of driving conditions.”
By Andy Tully of Oilprice.com
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Andy Tully is a veteran news reporter who is now the news editor for Oilprice.com