VW, Porsche, Audi 3.0-liter diesels have 'defeat devices,' EPA says
WASHINGTON -- More than 10,000 Volkswagen Group vehicles in the U.S. have been found with illegal software that masked higher emissions than allowed by law, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said.
Several VW, Porsche and Audi nameplates with 3.0-liter diesel engines have been found with "defeat device" software, the agency said. Previously, the probe had been limited to VW and Audi vehicles with 2.0-liter diesel engines.
The move pulls Porsche and Audi deeper into the emissions scandal that has already engulfed the corporate parent VW and its mass-market VW brand.
The V6 diesel was designed by VW's Audi unit and widely used in premium models sold by the VW, Audi and Porsche brands in model years 2014 through 2016.
VW issued a statement that said no software was installed in its 3.0-liter V6 diesel engines to alter emissions characteristics in a forbidden manner.
The company said it was informed by the EPA that its V6 diesel engines had a software function that "had not been adequately described" to the agency in VW’s applications for certification.
VW will "cooperate fully with the EPA clarify this matter in its entirety," the automaker said in a statement.
In a separate statement, Porsche said it was "surprised to learn this information." "Until this notice, all of our information was that the Porsche Cayenne Diesel is fully compliant," it said.
VW in 2013 said it had built and sold more than 1.6 million 3.0 V6 diesel engines worldwide, just before the current version of the engine was introduced in 2014. It is not clear how many models fitted with the current version of the V-6 may have the illegal software.
Notice of violation
The EPA issued a new Notice of Violation to Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche saying that the 2014 VW Touareg, 2015 Porsche Cayenne and 2016 Audi A6 Quattro, A7 Quattro, A8, A8L and Q5 crossover with 3.0-liter diesel engines contained illegal software.
The notice covers about 10,000 vehicles from the 2014 and 2015 model years. The EPA also said an unknown number of 2016 model year vehicles are involved.
The EPA said it cited only those vehicles and model years that it had recently tested. It did not say if it has tested earlier versions of the engine.
"The EPA's investigation into this matter is continuing," the notice said. "The EPA may find additional violations as the investigation continues."
A VW group source familiar with the EPA investigation said: "We want to know more from the regulators about how they came to this conclusion. We're not sure how they came up with their findings, and would like a better opportunity to review the data with the regulators."
In a conference call with reporters on Monday, EPA officials said the defeat device software found on the 3.0-liter diesel engines was discovered through the agency’s joint testing initiative with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) The tests were done to seek out such defeat devices on diesel vehicles industrywide.
The tests have so far discovered defeat devices only on the VW, Audi and Porsche vehicles listed in the Notice of Violation issued on Monday and on Sept. 18 when the agency disclosed the defeat devices used in VW’s 2.0-liter diesel, Janet McCabe, acting assistant administrator from the EPA’s Office of Air & Radiation, said on the call.
While the agency, along with CARB, plans to test all light-duty diesel vehicles on sale now for defeat devices, it’s unclear whether any automakers have been cleared to date.
According to the EPA, software contained in the electronic control module of the affected 3.0-liter models could sense when the vehicle was undergoing formal U.S. emissions testing, and in turn would switch on a “temperature conditioning” mode of engine operation. In this mode, the emissions controls limited nitrogen oxide emissions to permissible levels.
Yet, according to the EPA, “exactly one second after” completing the initial phase of the U.S. test procedure, the engine transitions into a “normal mode” where NOx emissions increase up to nine times the level allowed by law.
In other emissions tests that don’t begin like the standard federal emissions test procedure, “emissions are higher from the start, consistent with ‘normal mode,’” the EPA said in a statement.
The EPA said the 3.0-liter diesel vehicles also contained one or more “Auxiliary Emission Control Devices” that the VW Group failed to disclose to EPA. In general, such software is legal if its functions can be observed during testing and it is properly disclosed to the agency.
Carmakers are permitted to use software to optimize engine performance in some cases, but sidestepping emissions controls with a defeat device is prohibited by law.
Reuters contributed to this report