What we know about the Volkswagen emissions cheating scandal and whether it will affect UK car owners
23 September 2015

The VW emissions scandal started in the United States, but the firm has since announced that up to 11 million vehicles globally have been sold with the EA-189 engine that could feature the electronics and, potentially, the software used to cheat in testing.

Does the VW emissions scandal affect UK cars?

Potentially - but only potentially. Volkswagen has admitted that it has sold 11 million cars globally with the EA-189 engine at the centre of the controversy. But it’s unclear if all of those engines had precisely the same software installed on them - and, if they did, whether the system could even be used to get around the EU tests that govern the cars sold in the UK.

The UK’s motor industry body, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has issued some robust rebuttals on the matter. Its most recent statement said: “The UK automotive industry understands the concerns consumers may have following the actions of one manufacturer in regard to emissions testing and the subsequent decision to recall a large number of its cars. This is, however, an issue affecting just one company and there is no evidence to suggest that any other company is involved, let alone that this is an industry-wide issue.”

So that’s it, then?

Not quite. The investigations into the practice are spreading across different regions, and we’ve already seen enquiries announced in Germany, France, Italy and Canada. The UK Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said yesterday: “We are closely monitoring the situation. It’s vital that the public has confidence in vehicle emissions tests and I am calling for the European Commission to investigate this issue as a matter of urgency.”

The best-case scenario, then, is that the reason the VW scandal blew up in America is because the EU testing process and regime is so much more rigorous that the software couldn’t make a difference here. The worst-case scenario is that ultra-thorough regulators in the US have picked up an issue that has passed the EU bodies by. The SMMT is technically correct in saying that no evidence of a more widespread problem has been found, but it’s a fast-developing situation and the digging has only just begun.

Does this explain why my car doesn’t match its official fuel economy figure?

If you’ve been listening to the radio or watching television, you could be forgiven for thinking that the VW scandal is the magic bullet that explains the age-old shortfall between the official fuel economy figures and what modern cars achieve in real-world use. In fact, the VW story is about the NOx particulate emissions that affect city-centre air quality, not CO2 emissions or fuel economy. All of the current noise about rethinking the EU emissions tests - including the industry saying that it has seeking agreement on a test that is more representative of real-world conditions - is actually old news and has little, if anything, to do with VW cheating in the American NOx test.

Read more on the Volkswagen emissions scandal:

How the Volkswagen story unfolded

How VW's 'defeat device' works

VW board anticipates more top-line casualties

European cars are affected, says German minister

PSA Peugeot Citroën leads calls for tougher emissions test procedures

BMW - why the X5 complied with independent US emissions test

Blog - The VW Scandal and the growing dangers of its ripple effect

Blog - VW's scandal has put the entire motor industry under pressure

Blog - Winterkorn pays a high price

Blog - the emissions scandal could sink Volkswagen's US ambitions

Blog - are we about to see the death of diesel?

Blog - VW's US boss faces the music

Get the latest car news, reviews and galleries from Autocar direct to your inbox every week. Enter your email address below:

Join the debate

Comments
10

23 September 2015
The SMMT also issued a statement saying that the same thing couldn't happen here because "cars are randomly selected from the production line" and the test "is independently witnessed by a government-appointed independent agency".

Neither of these points mean that it couldn't happen here. The US tests could have randomly selected cars from the production line and it could be witnessed by as many people as they like but the cheat would have still occurred!

289

23 September 2015
Yes, I think Mike Hawes went out on a spectacularly long and thin limb on this one when he stated that this is not industry wide!
Personally my view is that there are a lot more skeletons yet to leap out of other Brands cupboards.
My guess is that Industry chiefs are holding up 'Keep Cal' placards whilst panicking behind the scenes.

289

23 September 2015
sorry....should have read 'Keep Calm' Placards

23 September 2015
A couple of months ago, SMMT were telling everyone to buy Euro6 diesels because they are 'clean' and nothing like dirty old diesels. More and more evidence coming out that, in real world conditions, NOX emissions even from Euro6 engines are much higher than stated. I wouldn't trust their statements on this issue.

23 September 2015
The SMMT is not a consumer group. It's a body that represents car makers. It's merely speaking Volkswagen's speak. I do not half trust it. Until it runs its own tests to verify Volkswagen claims.

23 September 2015
What's saddest about this affair is how limp is the reporting in the motoring press - both by Autocar and it's 'competitors'. Reprinting SMMT hogwash uncritically and lagging behind the mainstream press shows how far in hock they all are to the advertisers. Native advertising, content marketing, disguised advertorial - these are the 'defeat devices' employed by the publishers. Result: dodgy output that's mainly economic with the truth. I for one would rather go back to paying for decent editorial rather than getting this mildly toxic guff for free.

23 September 2015
This is caused by a feature in the design of the ECU software. That means it's in every car.

The article is wrong to say this is nothing to do with CO2 and mileage. There's a tradeoff between CO2 (and hence fuel economy) and NOx emissions. Lower one and the other goes up. To get low CO2 -- as demanded by global warming fanatics -- NOx has to go up. If car manufacturers weren't being forced to hit low targets for a harmless gas (CO2) then they would be free to address the harmful NOx emissions.

jer

23 September 2015
Is that what the global scientific community is called?

23 September 2015
I was driving my first diesel tractor in 1956. All my first cars were petrol. I rebuilt the engines of a few. AC Ace that is still running on the same set of main bearings today. Ford Falcon Ute that was one of the least mentionable in my car collection ............................................................................... Now to the so called scandal that has ripped VWs world apart.
All VW owners have benefited by their attempts to manipulate emissions testing. BUT VW Owners should understand that there is a major conflict of interest facing auto makers. The more efficient the Diesel engine, the greater the NOx levels. The cure is Water Injection (WI)to reduce combustion temperature AND/OR Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) that reduces Oxygen levels in the combustion chamber.
Both WI & EGR reduce the economy & power of the efficient diesel engine.

Conclusion:- What id good for the customer does not help emissions control. Which do you want. Actually it is theoretically possible to implement WI & EGR in urban driving and reduce NOx levels by 60%.

Malo Mori Quam Foedari

26 September 2015
it's all diesels. Almost feeling sorry for VW at this point. All diesels including Euro6 it would appear, pump out many times more NOx in the real world than the "legal" bs manipulated (self) test limit. TfL recently released another report on roadside testing in London - every single diesel checked was pumping out (up to 15x) more NOx than manufacturers claim, but not one petrol was similarly lying..even a 60% reductions is not nearly enough to correct that. The weight of scientific evidence is overwhelming torque lovers, our crappy governments, lobbied by car makers have ignored warnings on NOx and particulates for years and allowed this to go on under the guise of reducing carbon dioxide. Well high CO2 isn't great for the planet but NOx and PM 2.5 will kill you if you suck in enough..can we cut the crap and just start ditching the derv ?

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Lexus LC500
    Car review
    20 October 2017
    Futuristic Lexus LC coupé mixes the latest technology with an old-school atmospheric V8
  • Maserati Levante S GranSport
    First Drive
    20 October 2017
    Get ready to trade in your diesels: Maserati’s luxury SUV finally gets the engine it’s always needed
  • Jaguar XF Sportbrake TDV6
    First Drive
    19 October 2017
    The handsome Jaguar XF Sportbrake exhibits all the hallmarks that makes the saloon great, and with the silky smooth diesel V6 makes it a compelling choice
  • Volkswagen T-Roc TDI
    First Drive
    19 October 2017
    Volkswagen's new compact crossover has the looks, the engineering and the build quality to be a resounding success, but not with this diesel engine
  • BMW M550i
    First Drive
    19 October 2017
    The all-paw M550i is a fast, effortless mile-muncher, but there's a reason why it won't be sold in the UK