Cheat, or get fired: Scared Volkswagen engineers pour diesel in gasoline cars to fool CO2 tests

The stink is getting bigger

The stink is getting bigger

Under pressure from above, and worried for their jobs, Volkswagen engineers doctored tests to make VW cars look cleaner and thriftier than in real life. Today, Germany’s BILD Zeitung [German, paywall] has the details to a story that broke yesterday.

According to the paper, Volkswagen engineers uses a number of tricks to improve the official mileage of new cars. Tires were over-inflated. Diesel fuel was added to gasoline to lower friction and to increase energy. Data that had no relation to real life results was compiled into official reports, used for type approval, and to determine the car’s vehicle tax.

“Employees have indicated in an internal investigation that there were irregularities in ascertaining fuel consumption data. How this happened is subject to ongoing proceedings,” a Volkswagen spokesman told Reuters, declining to comment on the Bild report.

According to a second report [German, paywall], the engineers “cheated because they were scared of their big boss,” Volkswagen’s deposed CEO Martin Winterkorn. In March 2012, Winterkorn announced at the Geneva auto show that by 2015, Volkswagen would lower the CO2 emissions of its cars by 30 percent. The goal was impossible to reach with legal means, the engineers told investigators. The engineers did not dare to give the bad news to Winterkorn. More than a month ago, the Dailykanban wrote about a terror regime at Volkswagen. Now, the stories reach the general public.

The cheating also puts the spotlight on Europe’s powerful technical services that perform the tests and process the paperwork before it is submitted to government agencies. Companies like Germany’s TUV or DEKRA are paid by automakers to process the results. Government agencies do not have the means or technical expertise to recheck the reports. Also, technical services in different EU countries are said to be different in their zeal. There are discussions to empower government agencies like Germany’s KBA to perform its own tests. At the same time, there are noises in Brussels that the type certification regime in individual EU countries could come under tighter supervision from Brussels.