Never has a news story made me so incredulous. But I’ve checked and rechecked and, yes, there is a strong suggestion from VW that the use of manipulation software in European emissions testing may not be illegal.

The argument appears to centre around whether the software constitutes a defeat device. European test regulations clearly state that defeat devices are prohibited, but there are sub-clauses within the wording. Specifically, they read:

“The use of defeat devices that reduce the effectiveness of emission control systems shall be prohibited. The prohibition shall not apply where:

“(a) the need for the device is justified in terms of protecting the engine against damage or accident and for safe operation of the vehicle;

“(b) the device does not function beyond the requirements of engine starting;

“or

“(c) the conditions are substantially included in the test procedures for verifying evaporative emissions and average tailpipe emissions.’

So far, I’ve had no further detail from VW, but I wonder if it is trying to claim that the software was there for “protecting the engine against damage” or similar? At which point, even if they do discover the manipulation software was invoked in European NEDC testing, they will be able to claim that they didn’t break any rules.