Wtf vw?


I suspect the fix is more than a few hundred bucks, or a filter; it seems like a more fundamental engineering issue. But I ain’t no engineer.

Something occurred to be though as I was driving past the VW dealer this morning (on my way to pick up my wife who dropped her CR-V off at the Honda dealer for service). Dealer service departments are pretty heavily involved in diagnostics. They know the ECU well, one would think. Is it conceivable that VW service departments, and hence the whole dealer network, was unaware of the deception? Is it really possible that, in all of the servicing, testing, and diagnostic work they’ve been doing on those diesels since 2009 that they never suspected, discovered, or knew about this? I really don’t know, but I’m fearing that when the lawsuit train starts a-rollin’ it may end up with dealers in the lawyers’ sights as well.


I tend to doubt it. The dealers are probably familiar with ECUs and they likely see a bunch of people that “chip” their cars to get better performance.

So such cases, they would fail emissions and the dealers would recommend that the owners “re-flash” their ECUs back to standard in order to pass. They’d then test the engines, find that they now pass, and give the cars back. The owners would then probably go back home and re-alter the ECUs. It’s the automotive circle of life.

For un-altered ECUs, I’m not sure how a maintenance guy would find it. Either the ECU software is working (and the car would pass emissions), or it’s busted and they’d probably install a new ECU. Might there have been some weird cases? Sure, but I don’t know that there would have been so many as to go past the “huh, that’s weird” level of interest for these folks. From what I’ve read, the software was pretty adept and detecting when the car was on a lift or undergoing diagnostics.


Yeah, Emissions aren’t really a thing a dealer gives a crap about. It isn’t anything the customer generally cares about much either since you don’t see the firsthand effects of it. If your gas mileage is crap, you notice. If you’re putting out more pollution… how would you know? You trust regulatory bodies for that sort of thing.


Interesting. I’m aware of the chipping scene–looked into it myself for my GTI, but decided not to–and how various dealers have varying attitudes towards/knowledge of it, but I didn’t have much idea of the day to day life of the techs in terms of dealing with the ECUs. I’m still wondering though, because one of the things dealers certainly advertise to customers is their deep knowledge of the specifics of their models, etc. and I’m betting dollars to donuts some lawyers will accuse the dealers of being in on it, or at least passively enabling the deception. I guess time will tell.

Though your explanations make a good deal of sense–if something is working, that is, not sending up any red flags, the dealer techs would have little interest or need to dig further.


Not really news. VW is using a platform strategy across several brands, so of cause the Audi, Skoda and Seat models related to the relevant VW models have the problems too.

The new VW boss said the worst case scenario is 11M cars across all brands. All have this software on board, but it’s only activated in a subset of these 11M. Latest number is 5M cards sold under VW brand.

The new VW boss said today that 5M VW brand cars will be called into service. Technical details will be presented to the authorities in October. VW will pay for the whole procedure. 6.5 billion EUR have been put aside for that so far.

News in Germany report that paper trails and witness reports are popping up in the VW internal audit department. Back in 2007 or 2008 Bosch has warned VW about possible legal trouble if they use the software bundled by them for more than the intended internal purpose. Bosch is one of the biggest parts suppliers. They manufactured the group of parts according to VW’s specs.
An engineer said he had personally informed one of the already fired leading managers - R&D head or his assistant - about the possible legal trouble in 2011. He was not taken seriously. If that’s true, this former manager is in big trouble.


It’ll likely be a software fix – basically a patch that removes that bit of code that shuts off the pollution control except when testing. VW got low NOx emissions by modifying how the engine ran via software, not with filters and whatnot. Take that bit of code out, and the engine performance deteriorates (as it does during emissions testing today). From what I’ve read the cars won’t be as responsive and gas mileage will go down. And that’s going to piss off a lot of people who bought what they thought was a big car with good mpg, great performance and low emissions. Here come the lawsuits…

I don’t think they can get to U.S. NOx standards with an add-on filter, at least one for a few hundred dollars. It’s inherent in how the engine runs. But I’m not an auto engineer either :)


The German Finance Minister (I think it was him, something like that) was saying today that VW as we know it will not be around much longer. The company is going to be radically different in structure in the near future, or something like that. I’m not sure what that means, but I can’t think it’s sending quivers of joy through the stockholders.

I’m just really pissed at the company, because I really do like a couple of their cars. The GTI has been one of the premier hot hatches for years, and mine is probably the best car I’ve ever had, rivaled maybe by my Acura GT-R. I’d hate to see VW’s gasoline offerings impacted by all this, but hits to R&D, profits, and innovation are bound to be part of the fallout.


I can’t imagine this going over well with most customers, who tend to sit on the “enthusiast” side of the scale. “Please bring in your car so we can reduce the power and lower fuel economy,” on the vehicle that they paid a premium for because it had decent power a great fuel economy.

We’re all poo-pooing the VW leadership for their poor ethics, but how many consumers will make the right ethical decision when faced with the trade-off between performance and emissions?


Consumers though shouldn’t be in that position, not in this way at least. The way it is supposed to work is you choose from a variety of approved, legally-sanctioned alternatives. You want a gas-guzzling, smog-spewing (comparatively) vehicle? No problem; pay the gas guzzler tax and have at it, because even this arguably “poor” choice is within the legal limits. The laws are intended really to constrain the parameters of acceptable decisions. You can encourage people to drive economical, clean cars, but you won’t convince everyone, often for fairly valid reasons. So you set limits that minimize damage while maximizing choice and market freedom. So the ethics of the decision is much more a gray zone–if the car really was that bad, it couldn’t be sold, so you’re off the hook.

Here, it was flat-out lying. People thought they were making a good ethical choice and getting a good benefit (performance and economy) in the bargain. Even if they were not at all concerned about the environment, they did nothing ethically wrong–and I’m not convinced that in all cases it’s more ethical to ditch performance in favor of better emissions; it depends a lot on the actual numbers, among other things. VW, on the other hand, did indeed do Bad Things, ethically and legally. They not only violated specific regulations and laws, they violated the unspoken compact of the marketplace by subverting the process by which people come to terms with complex issues like balancing different attributes (performanc, economy, emissions, costs) in a market system.


It seems VW wants to present their possible solutions on Oct. 5th.

I think it’s unlikely they’ll use a software solution. Why would VW put aside 6b€ if they only want to flash a new BIOS? Upgrading the tech in the cars shouldn’t be much of a problem from an engineering standpoint. VW certainly knows how to do this.


I suspect it’s not a question of knowing how, it’s the actual engineering. I have no idea whether you can just, say, bolt on new injection gear to make the problem go away, or whether it requires, say, a whole new engine.


Local paper here ran a story about regional VW dealers. While some are fairly sanguine, most are pretty pissed. They have dozens of cars sequestered on their lots that they cannot sell. In some cases, diesels were a third or more of their total sales, and that puts a nasty dent in the bottom line. Plus, like everyone else, they are waiting to see what corporate is actually going to do (or rather, make them do). My particular dealership’s owner was rather irate with big daddy VW for sure.


The plot thickens. When this new VW engine was close to volume production, engineering discovered they can’t fulfill both the legal requirements and the cost demands by the upper management. It’s not clear yet who gave the order.

Two systems were used. 2.0l engines use a solution by Continental, 1.6l engines one by Bosch. Bosch said they warned VW to make sure not to ship the funtions intended for internal use. Conti says they didn’t know about anything and the software they delivered wasn’t capable of the manipulations. This implies VW added something to it.
Fixing the Bosch solution requires only a software update. Fixing Continental’s parts requires hardware modifications to the engine.


Interesting. And either way, the cars after the modification will not be the cars the people thought they were buying.


According to this story, basically everyone who sells diesel passenger cars is cheating lab tests.


This would explain the answer to the earlier question of how no other manufacturer figured out what VW was doing… Apparently they did, and then they did it too.


I think every car manufacturer was designing their engines with test conditions in mind. They wanted to optimize for that scenario even if it wasn’t representative of real world driving conditions. That’s unfortunate but to be expected. Outright cheating on the test, on the other hand, is another thing entirely. That’s what’s going to get VW into much more trouble than anyone else even if their engines are actually the cleanest in real world conditions.


Indeed. If the test parameters that the regulatory authorities hand down are not representative of the “real world”, then it is incumbent on THEM to adjust the parameters or add more. You can’t blame the car manufacturers for designing their engines to pass the tests… which is actually the whole goal of the regulations.

The VW thing is different because the didn’t design the engine to pass, they designed it to detect when it was being tested.


Well, are the other cars producing much larger polution rates due to simple differences in driving conditions, or because they too were using some kind of mechanism designed to sidestep the regulations?


I would guess the former. Keep in mind that the pollution tests are all done in fairly controlled and smooth conditions. There’s no simulated cornering, simulated hard acceleration, simulated tow weights, simulated uphills, etc. Real world results will be worse than tested values, just like tested fuel economy ratings. And for the same reasons.