Revelations of the extent of Volkswagen’s efforts to hide the true level of its automobile emissions just keep piling up, yet the company appears incapable of coming clean, responding to each new revelation with denial, feigned ignorance and weak apologies.
Last week, an internal e-mail surfaced that shows Volkswagen successfully lobbied the European Commission to remove two key parts of Europe’s forthcoming auto emissions tests, no doubt to make sure its cars in Europe could continue to pollute at unacceptable levels.
The new road tests were meant to measure emissions during actual driving conditions, including starting a car when the engine is cold. The automaker, which owns the Porsche, Lamborghini and Audi brands, also argued against requiring special tests for cars designed to be driven fast. Many countries around the world follow Europe’s emissions standards.
It is particularly damning that these latest revelations come as the world gathers in Paris to tackle climate change by reducing carbon emissions. The least the European Parliament can do is to reject the new rules when they come before it for a vote, and send the commission back to draft new ones free of Volkswagen’s manipulative meddling.
Last month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reported that even more Volkswagen models — seven — were equipped with illegal “defeat device” software. The software is designed to sense when vehicles are undergoing emissions testing and indicate much lower levels of nitrogen oxide, a pollutant that is dangerous to human health and strictly regulated by the EPA, than those that occur during regular driving.
In September, Volkswagen admitted it installed the devices in 11 million automobiles around the world. But, in a clumsy attempt at damage control, it tried to argue that while these devices amounted to fraud in the U.S. market, they weren’t illegal in Europe. Last week, German regulators shot that argument down, confirming that the devices constitute illegal cheating on emissions in Europe, too.
Volkswagen also understated emissions of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, for about 800,000 of its vehicles sold in Europe. It had claimed it discovered this only after it began looking into the nitrogen oxide problem. Not true, it turns out. Last month, the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag reported that Volkswagen executives knew a year ago that those vehicles displayed fuel efficiency — an important measure of CO2 emissions — significantly better than it actually was.
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE NEW YORK TIMES