It might be an oncoming train.
Audi A6, A8, and Q5 Implicated So Far
Though the full list of vehicles that the software is allegedly installed in is yet unknown, the report suggests that it was installed until last May in Audi A6, A8, and Q5 gasoline and diesel models equipped with the AL 551 automatic transmission. Neither Volkswagen nor regulators have acknowledged or publically discussed the new accusations. It’s the first time that gasoline engines have been implicated in the emissions scandal.
How the Cheat Software Works
The software reportedly senses when the front wheels are turned. Since there are no steering inputs during emissions testing, the vehicle would recognize that it was being tested and operate in a mode that produces less carbon dioxide (CO2) than it would under real-world conditions.
Though the cheat software was found by U.S. regulators, it could have broader implications in Europe, where regulations focus more on CO2 emissions than the nitrogen oxides (NOx) that U.S. regulators strictly control. CO2 is a greenhouse gas, while nitrogen oxides form smog.
Another Scandal for the VW Group
In the previous diesel emissions scandal, the vehicles would emit nitrogen oxides at rates far in excess of allowable limits when driven outside of the testing cycles. That scandal affected about 550,000 vehicles in the U.S., and Volkswagen recently settled with CARB, other state authorities, and the Environmental Protection Agency for $14.7 billion. Much of that will be spent for VW to buy back or modify affected vehicles, and compensate owners.
The use of such “defeat devices” is forbidden by regulation. According to German newspaper Bild am Sonntag and reported in the Wall Street Journal, CARB technicians were able to change the amount of CO2 emissions coming from the tailpipe by simply turning the steering wheel during testing.
Worse, the German newspaper reports, are the minutes of a 2013 meeting where senior Audi and Volkswagen officials allegedly openly discussed the software, called a “cycle-optimized shift program.”
How the new emissions scandal will affect the ongoing negotiations between Volkswagen and regulators over Volkswagen, Audi, and Porsche 3.0-liter diesel engines is unknown.
Last week was a busy one for the carmaker. Following the settlement with regulators and customers who purchased vehicles equipped with 2.0-liter diesel engines, the company has started its TDI buyback program. While Volkswagen dealers are working hard to retain those customers, other automakers, including Volvo and Hyundai, are offering special incentives on alternatives to VW diesels to woo the customers away.
Volkswagen admitted last weekend that its chairman, Hans Dieter Potsch, is part of a widening German government investigation into violations of securities laws by keeping investors in the dark about the extent of financial risk that the company was facing due to the initial diesel emissions scandal. The company lost as much as 35 percent of its value in the days following the disclosure of the diesel cheat device in September 2015, according to MarketWatch.
Former Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn and the head of VW’s passenger car division, Herbert Diess, are also subjects of the German prosecutors’ investigation. No charges have been brought in Germany for the cheats themselves, only for the securities implications of the company’s actions.
More than nine million vehicles across Europe were involved in the earlier scandal. The company faces nearly $9 billion in claims from investors. They include government agencies, investment funds from around the world, and the California state government pension agency.
See our continuing coverage to learn more about the diesel emissions buyback program and its effects on Volkswagen, its customers, and its dealers. For the latest car buying advice and news, follow the expert journalists and researchers of U.S. News & World Report on Twitter and Facebook.
Sizing Up the Competition
Key A6 Competitors
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|No. 1 (Tied With Audi A6)||2017 Cadillac CTS||$45,560|
|No. 3||2016 Lexus GS Hybrid||$63,080|
|No. 4 (Tie)||2016 Hyundai Genesis||$38,750|
|No. 4 (Tie)||2016 Lexus GS||$45,615|
|No. 4 (Tie)||2016 Mercedes-Benz E-Class||$52,650|
Key A8 Competitors
|No. 1||2016 Mercedes-Benz S-Class||$95,650|
|No. 2||2016 Porsche Panamera||$78,100|
|No. 3||2016 BMW 7 Series||$81,300|
|No. 5||2016 Lexus LS||$72,520|
|No. 6||2016 Jaguar XJ||$74,400|
Key Q5 Competitors
|No. 1||2016 Porsche Macan||$52,600|
|No. 2||2017 Jaguar F-Pace||$40,990|
|No. 3||2016 BMW X3||$38,950|
|No. 4 (Tied With Audi Q5)||2016 Lexus NX||$34,965|
|No. 4 (Tie)||2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class||$38,950|
Rankings as of November 9, 2016. Click here to see updated rankings.