It was discovered in September 2015 that VW had been doctoring their vehicles to mask dangerous levels of emission. Following the German manufacturing company’s admittance that they had been rigging pollution tests in the US, it became apparent that millions of motorists could also be driving illegal cars in the UK.
VW had proudly been marketing its diesel cars for their low emission, while at the same time installing software in these models (since 2009) to deceive regulators who were measuring exhaust fumes.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found 482,000 cases in the US alone, with VW admitting that actually about 11 million cars worldwide – including eight million in Europe – had been fitted with the device. This means they may be responsible for 1m tonnes of air pollution every year.
In Britain and the rest of Europe, all new diesels should meet the Euro 6 emissions standard as of 1st September. However, this software used by VW senses the car is being tested and injects urea into the exhaust system to clean up fumes. This enables cars to appear ultra-clean when they are actually emitting up to 40 times more nitrogen oxide than the legal limit.
VW is now facing fines of at least $18 billion and shares in the company dropped by almost a third following the admission that the company had used this technology to evade emissions tests. With the company having to recall millions of cars worldwide and setting aside billions of dollars to do so, the company posted its first quarterly loss for 15 years, of €2.5 billion.
On top of this their UK car sales fell by a fifth in November, compared with a year ago. Official data showed that 12,958 VW cars were registered in this month, down from 16,196 during the same month a year ago.
Other VW brands’ sales were also down, including SEAT, whose sales were down 24% on an annual basis and Skoda, which were 11% lower, and Audi, who declined by 4%. This contrasts with the wider UK market, where sales were up 3.8% on an annual basis.
As well as a fall in sales in the UK, VW sales fell 25% in the US in the same month. In Germany, however, sales only fell by 2% with VW remaining the best-selling brand. The VW crisis also appeared to have a limited effect on sales of diesel cars in general, which rose 3.6% year-on-year in November.
However, although Volkswagen is currently at the centre of the scandal it is unlikely that they are the only manufacturer attempting to cheat the system in this way. That said, many have spoken out to distance themselves from the scandal, and emissions test would prove much more difficult to fix in Europe as opposed to in the US.
There are plans to introduce new on-road tests that will measure the real-world emissions of diesel cars, but this will not apply to new EU cars until at least 2018.
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Darren has owned several companies in the automotive, advertising and education industries. He has run driving theory educational websites since 2010.