The week is barely a day old, and controversy continues to swirl around Volkswagen’s luxury subsidiary, Audi. Last week, a story in the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag said the California Air Resources Board (CARB) had found a second cheating device on several Audi vehicles. The cheating device is located in the software that operates the automatic transmission.
Bild reported last week that the particular software device was unique to the transmission. The report indicated that the second device was unrelated to the device that triggered the Dieselgate scandal. However, it is just one more headache for an automaker already beset by 100,000 unresolved issues in the U.S. – the turbodiesel vehicles about which the automaker is reportedly in discussions with regulators to settle another piece of the Dieselgate scandal and other matters related to the emissions issue.
Software Used For Years
Though the entire software package that runs the powertrain (engine and transmission) has been used in diesel and gasoline versions for years, it is the first time it has been called out about emissions cheating. The software is sensitive to the position of the front wheels. Reportedly, if they are turned more than 15 degrees, the testing software is disarmed, and carbon dioxide emissions levels change. Nitrogen oxide emissions also reportedly rise.
Volkswagen which has taken the hardened stance that such software devices are legal in Europe, through a loophole in the emissions rules, continued its aggressive defense of the new cheating device. In an email to another newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung, the automaker said, “Adaptive shift programs can lead to incorrect and non-reproducible results” when the cars are tested. VW’s email was in response to a story to a story in the second newspaper.
“Audi has explained the technical background of adaptive shift programs to the Federal Motor Vehicle Authority (KBA) and has made available technical information,” VW said. The automaker added that further talks are planned with the KBA, which has been asked to check into Audi’s reported irregularities.
Sueddeutsche Zeitung, citing a confidential VW document, noted that if the software controlling one of the affected Audi’s automatic transmissions detected test conditions, the shifting patterns changed. Shifting became more rapid and occurred in a way that would lower CO2 and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions as well.
Adaptive Transmission Control Explained
Adaptive transmission control is supposed to improve performance by balancing fuel economy and shift frequency more closely. “In normal use, support the driver by adjusting the gear-shifting points to best adapt to each driving situation,” VW claimed.
Meantime, the Bild newspaper reported Sunday that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had opened another investigation into Audi over the latest software findings. The agency was reportedly set to hear from senior VW engineers next week. VW, Audi and the EPA all declined to comment. However, two sources briefed on the matter, said the U.S. agency is asking whether this constitutes a defeat device for gasoline-powered vehicles.
Volkswagen, EPA and CARB are reportedly deep in discussions over the fate of nearly 100,000 vehicles equipped with 3.0-liter, V-6 turbo-diesel engines. Staring at a Nov. 30 court date in San Francisco, the agencies and the automaker are in talks to resolve the emissions problems of the 2009-15 Audi, Porsche and VW vehicles, primarily crossovers. The vehicles reportedly emit up to nine times the legally allowable emissions limits.
Volkswagen’s had submitted a proposed fix to EPA and CARB. However, the idea was blown out of the air earlier this year after its rejection by regulators.
Meantime, Volkswagen and attorneys for the owners of the diesel vehicles affected by the emissions scandal are involved in intensive negotiations to find an agreement on compensation. Owners of 2.0-liter turbo-diesels, whose Dieselgate class-action lawsuit settlement was approved about three weeks ago, can expect to receive between $5,100 and $10,000 in compensation. The compensation is in addition to VW’s buyback offer, based on the trade-in offer shown in National Auto Dealers Association pricing guides for September 2015. NADA guides are looked on as primary used-car pricing resource in the car business.
Two Class-Action Suits
At least two class-action suits have been filed against Audi over the second cheating device. One maintains that CARB has “determined that Audi had … surreptitiously installed a gearing-related defeat device in the class vehicles. The defeat device was used to circumvent the class vehicles’ emission control systems that exist to comply with Clean Air Act emissions standards.” CARB has declined to confirm its probe. However, regulators – EPA and CARB – have acknowledged intensifying their vehicle reviews in the wake of VW’s self-inflicted diesel cheating scandal.
In Audi news, Rupert Stadler, Audi’s chief executive, is facing new questions about the so-called second cheating device.
Sources: Automotive News Europe, Reuters