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;