Why Volkswagen’s Dieselgate was the most embarrassing recall in automotive history
Volkswagen In the 2010s, she found herself in the midst of the recent automobile scandal that shook the world. After cheating the system for nearly a decade in 2015, the auto world giant found itself on its hands and knees after some researchers decided to test a humble Volkswagen Jetta from the lab and on the road. After the publication of their find, alarm bells rang around the world.
Over the next five years, Volkswagen’s reputation was tarnished. Finding billions, suing executives and taking the brand’s cars off the road, the entire Volkswagen Group was embarrassed. Across the industry, people were burned and no longer trusted the clean and economical promise of diesel. With emissions from diesel Volkswagens up to 40 times worse than the company once promised in the real world.
Volkswagen Group hatchbacks, sedans and SUVs with diesel engines ran into trouble in 2015.
That happened in Dieselgate
Dieselgate, also known as emissions gate, has brought Volkswagen to its knees. In the early 2000s, the company emphasized the merits of diesel as a fuel source. True, diesel engines don’t sound particularly good, as most engines remind drivers of agricultural machines. However, low-rpm diesel engines with plenty of low-end torque resulted in much better fuel economy. Suddenly a driver could have a big engine in their BMW, Mercedes-Benz or Audi without the terrible fuel consumption. In other words, drivers could have their cake and eat it with diesels for transmissions. In the early 2000s, the diesel engine became increasingly popular.
Dieselgate broke into the news cycle in 2015 and shattered that vision. According to Statista, an online statistics aggregator, “although the share of diesel car sales in Ireland was quite high in 2019, this figure has fallen significantly since 2015, from 71 per cent to 46 per cent”. Similar trends exist in other European countries and the demise of the diesel engine began. However, the upper class of vehicles from BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar continue to offer diesel engines.
Volkswagen has shaken customers’ confidence in the diesel engine. Volkswagen engines do not meet any emissions standards anywhere in the world. Nitrogen oxide emissions had to be reduced worldwide to make the world cleaner. This particular chemical compound might sound cool to us nitrogen-obsessed gearheads. However, it actually has a toxic effect on the air.
After Volkswagen phased out its diesel engines, Volkswagen announced new clean diesel engines for 2009 that meet EU4 standards. The engines weren’t any cleaner than before, instead they used a software cheat disable device. After using a system called BlueTec, which used technology from Mercedes, Volkswagen decided to scam. When the car detected an emissions test, it simply switched to a less polluting mode. Mercedes was also found to be cheating on emissions tests.
How Dieselgate paralyzed Volkswagen
In 2015, the International Business Times reported that VW’s board of directors “received an internal memo showing that an engineer at the company had warned about dubious emissions practices in 2011.” Even more scathingly, the International Business Times reported that “as early as 2007, Bosch had warned VW against using its software illegally.” From the start, the company knew what they were doing was illegal, but they continued anyway.
In 2015, West Virginia University tested a Volkswagen Jetta and Passat. Using a portable emission measurement system, the researchers determined the real-world emissions from the car. This resulted in the EPA forcing Volkswagen to recall nearly 500,000 cars sold with 2-liter diesel engines where the defeat device was identified. Not only Volkswagen had to recall cars, but also the brand brother Audi.
This recall affected everything from the Audi A1 and A3 to the big A8 and Q8. On the Volkswagen side, the recall included the Golf, Beetle, Touraeg and Passat, as well as most brands. Following the EPA’s recall of 2-liter models worldwide, other bodies have continued to investigate Volkswagen Group cars. Small-displacement engines in Seats and Skodas came under fire alongside the big 3.0 TDI engine that powers the larger cars in the group. The total number of vehicles affected is just over 11 million worldwide, including 550,000 in the United States.
Volkswagen made amends with Dieselgate
Volkswagen had to follow various procedures around the world to make amends for its actions. In the UK, Volkswagen had to ‘fix’ vehicles and recalled 20,000 vehicles a week for repairs. Only as reported in The Guardian, when they returned to drivers to line up these polluting engines, power dropped off dramatically.
The company also scrapped many vehicles, but even some of them found their way back to customers. A few multi-million dollar lawsuits later, Volkswagen’s reputation lay in tatters. In the US, Volkswagen paid $4.3 billion in penalties and company executives ran into legal troubles. Really breaking precedent. Environmental groups made an example of Volkswagen, humiliating them in the process, warning other manufacturers to follow the rules.