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December 14, 2015

Owners Auto Know: Volkswagen Answers to the People

Broken-Volkswagen_logoBack in 1990, the EPA's Clean Air Act restricted emissions from diesel engines. Meeting clean air standards was very difficult, so for many years the diesel cars that were sold in Europe didn't come to America. Gradually, German automakers, who were strong in diesel technology, brought diesels that were in compliance with EPA standards to the U.S.

Consumers could now experience torque and range -- diesel's key virtues -- without worrying about the claims that the environment would be compromised by the emissions from these engines.

We all know what has happened. Volkswagen used software, known as a defeat device, in 2.0-liter, four-cylinder Volkswagen and Audi diesel cars from model years 2009-2015 to circumvent EPA emissions standards for certain air pollutants.

Volkswagen_diesel_defeat-2013_vw_passat_tdiThe Volkswagen diesel defeat device affects the way the NOx control system operates, resulting in higher NOx emission levels from these vehicles than from vehicles with properly operating emission controls. Nitrogen oxides (NOx) are the pollutants that can produce small particles that penetrate deeply into sensitive lung tissue and damage it. After emissions testing, the software is deactivated so that when the VW motorist is driving emissions are up to 40 times higher than when they were tested.

Here in the U.S., the model years 2009-2015 for certain Jettas, Golfs, Beetles and Passats affect about a half million cars. In a market that has approximately 250 million cars on the road, that is not a significant number, but there are 11 million Volkswagen impacted worldwide. If you are one of the owners of any of these models, then this has a significant impact on you financially and emotionally.

"I just want to love my car," said Tambra Dillion, a Volkswagen owner. "Now I can't."

The emotional component of Volkswagen's betrayal just scratches the surface of the perpetrated fraud. Marta Tellado, President and CEO of Consumer Reports has issued a statement calling for Volkswagen to be held accountable by making the consequences to the company severe.

Volkswagen_diesel_defeat-vw_beetleIn an editorial, Tellado wrote that Consumer Reports wants the consumer's voice to be louder than mere corporate apologies and vowed to be on the front lines to ensure that VW brings justice to those who have been harmed. The company will advocate that the consumer be financially compensated and that will include making up for the loss in value of the consumer's car. They will advocate for consumers asking for financial, mechanical environmental and ethical solutions.

That is reassuring, but what can the owner of one of these cars do, other than wait for a recall notice? The EPA has issued some statements that may help:

-- You can continue to drive your car as there is no safety concern.
-- The EPA can require Volkswagen to issue a recall but the agency doesn't anticipate having to do so. You will receive a recall notice from Volkswagen or Audi.
-- Once you receive a recall notice, you will have to determine if your state requires you to get the repair. Some states will not issue vehicle registrations until the recalls have been performed. However, it is important to have the repairs performed so that your VW isn't spewing harmful pollutants in excess of the federal emission standards.
-- You are not responsible for repair costs related to an emissions recall. Volkswagen will be picking up the tab on this one.
-- You won't be able to turn off the defeat device as it is embedded in the software code.
-- The emissions do not enter the cabin of the vehicle, so it is safe to have family members and others in your vehicle.
-- The cost of Volkswagen's deceit is already starting to accumulate. September was a record month for auto sales in the U.S., but Audi and VW sales plummeted 46 percent. BMW and Mercedes increased their sales of diesel passenger cars, suggesting that the fallout over the diesel scandal will be limited to VW and Audi. Total sales of passenger cars and light trucks with diesel engines fell slightly, 2.6 percent.

 

Kate McLeod-headshotby Kate McLeod for Motor Matters

Kate has written for magazines and newspapers for over 20 years. She has written for More, Edmunds.com, ForbesAutos.com, Houston Chronicle, Motion, Chief Executive, The New York Daily News, The New York Sun, and Autobytel.com. Her column, GirlDriver, USA is syndicated in seven newspapers in Upstate New York. Ms. McLeod is the author of Beetlemania, The Car That Captured the Hearts of Millions. She holds an MFA from Catholic University in Washington, D.C. and is also a playwright.   She is former First Vice President of the International Motor Press Association and a member of both The Authors and Dramatists Guilds.


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