Four months have now passed since Volkswagen admitted it had loaded emissions scamware into 11 million diesel cars worldwide, and controversy still ensnares the automaker, perhaps more deeply than when the scandal first broke. Indeed, the beleaguered car company is facing hundreds of lawsuits, criminal probes that, estimates have indicated, could end up costing more than $80 billion when the dust has cleared.
In the latest news, sources told Reuters today that the automaker’s executive supervisory board has been meeting weekly over the diesel emissions scandal that some are calling Dieselgate. The next executive panel meeting is scheduled to occur Feb. 3, in a bit over a week. The six-member committee has regularly been meeting to keep up with the emissions scandal. A source close to the situation told Reuters that it “it would not be enough for the executive committee to only meet ahead of a supervisory board meeting, or every six to eight weeks.” Instead, the source indicated the weekly meetings are needed as the board grapples with how to provide information to shareholders at the April 21 annual meeting.
Faced with its biggest crisis in its 80-year history, Volkswagen has not yet found an acceptable fix for the emissions cheating software that it installed in its vehicles from 2008 to 2015 to meet U.S. standards for oxides of nitrogen. Instead, VW engineers installed a cheatware switch that looks at various telltales that indicate when a vehicle is under test. If the telltales identify test conditions, the software routine moves to a subroutine that resets the emissions system to “pass mode” so the vehicle passes the test. When the test ends, the vehicle emissions system resets to “normal mode,” where mileage and performance are optimized while emissions worsen. In some cases, some VW diesel models have been shown to be emitting more than 40 times the allowable NOx limits in the U.S.
Meantime, the source indicated, that the automaker’s internal probe is proceeding at full speed as it readies to show results at the shareholder meeting in April. VW hired the law firm of Jones Day to conduct the independent internal probe.
Even with all of this activity, VW still seems no closer to resolving Dieselgate. There is still no definite U.S. fix as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and California Air Resources Board (CARB) recently rejected the automaker’s latest fix as too vague. So, nearly 600,000 U.S. diesel owners have no idea of where or when a fix may be forthcoming. In Europe, where standards are not quite as rigorous as the U.S., VW has outlined a series of fixes that it will begin rolling out next week. Matthias Mueller, the automaker’s chief executive, made this announcement yesterday at a company reception in Brussels.
At the same time, Mueller called for big changes to Europe’s diesel emissions testing program to close the gap between the laboratory and real world, Bloomberg reported yesterday. “The industrywide discrepancies between official test results and actual usage is no longer tolerable,” Mueller said, according to a statement from Volkswagen. “We, the industry, need to take a new path.” Carlos Ghosn, chief executive of Renault, expressed similar sentiments in an interview last week.
In other news, the automaker was given three months to provide a full accounting of the roots of Dieselgate. Lower Saxony, the automaker’s second-largest shareholder, made the demand through Stephan Weil, prime minister of that region and member of the VW supervisory board. “There is a very legitimate concern on the part of U.S. authorities, the public and the company itself for a comprehensive investigation, Weil said in an interview. “It’s in the interest of VW to provide a complete clarification.”