I do not want to be an apologist for VW, but I do not agree that is true, even if my sympathy is with owners.
I have absolute faith in our test process, both in terms of rigour and repeatability, but I’m also aware that it is one test of one car — testing more would cost thousands — and that it has been conducted to the test criteria established by sister title What Car? to measure real-world emissions and economy rather than mimic the unrealistic, lab-based NEDC test cycle by which VW is being measured by the authorities.
That the regulators and law makers have judged VW’s fixes against the NEDC cycle is inevitable, even if that test has been proven to be so flawed that it faces imminent replacement. The sad truth is that it is the only scientific benchmark they have. As a result, we are not comparing like with like — and that is VW’s ‘get out of jail free’ card when it comes to calls for compensation.
However, that doesn’t mean the VW Group shouldn’t face the wrath of owners such as Jonathan Mudd (the owner of the Volkswagen Touran we tested) — or further questions on what the real-world impact of its updates are. How that manifests itself will only become clear over time, but having talked to Mudd, it seems unlikely he will head to a VW Group dealership when he changes his car.
Our findings do not alter VW’s legal standing. However, I do believe they highlight that the VW Group’s efforts to win back the hearts and minds of its customer base without making any sort of goodwill gesture is — in some cases, at least — on fundamentally shaky ground.