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VW's computer program tricked EPA diesel emissions tests

Sep 24, 2015

There’s no other way to look at it: Volkswagen cheated and lied to its customers.

The German automaker admitted to cheating on the US emissions tests for half a million of its diesel vehicles.

CEO Martin Winterkorn has stepped down and more heads are expected to roll by week’s end, but Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes says this isn’t even the end of the beginning.

Howes tells us that VW developed a computer program that controls the anti-pollution and emissions systems in their diesel engines, and designed it to detect whether or not the vehicle was in a test environment.

When it detected that it was being tested, the program would turn all of the emissions systems on. And they passed the test.

But when the program determined the vehicle was operating in normal driving conditions, it would turn all of those systems off, effectively sidestepping the United States’ pollution regulations for diesel engines.

Howes explains that by disengaging those systems, the vehicles become more fuel efficient and provide greater torque performance.

“They wanted to essentially avoid American regulation. And so now they’ve got the full weight of regulation coming down on their proverbial neck,” Howes says. “This is very embarrassing not only for the company, but for the country.”

Daniel Howes tells us more about how VW got into this mess and what it means for the company in our conversation above.