Volkswagen this week reaffirmed earlier statements that its EA288 diesel engines used in the latest versions of some core models do not have emissions-cheating software like their earlier EA189 predecessors, but the company has not conducted ‘real-world’ testing to show it.
The EA288 engine family, used since 2012 but now fitted to MY16 cars in EU6-emissions guise, is fitted to vehicles sold in Australia such as the new Passat, as well as the forthcoming second-generation Tiguan, which we are driving in Europe this week ahead of its local launch in September.
The question of whether Volkswagen could guarantee to its buyers this week that new diesel-powered Tiguan models did not have devices that hid NOx emissions outside of lab testing was put to Volkswagen AG product communications spokesman Christian Buhlmann.
“It is nothing you can test on roads or can be tested in a lab, but instead what has been done is Volkswagen had to dismantle the ECU programming to the KBA (German Federal Motor Transport Authority) which is the authority in the EU responsible for us an OEM,” he said.
“We have identified exactly the software which has been used in the past for our EU 5 models with EA189 engines and we have proven that in the EA288 diesel engines, which are the ones we are using for instance in Tiguan, aren’t affected.”
But when asked, Buhlmann said that Volkswagen had not not conducted real-world testing — perhaps imitating the method used by West Virginia University that caught Volkswagen’s defeat devices in 2014 — to validate its claims.
“There is no testing in the real world… but what has been done, is for EA189 the software has been re-written and that will be rolled out in the remedies we are doing now for the world markets, and for EA288 which is the successor generation of engines used by Tiguan and other cars as of 2012, those cars never had the defeat software in the first place.”
However, as was pointed out, the question at the heart of the issue isn’t the claim that the EA288 engine don’t have the cheat software coding. The question is whether real-world tests, done voluntarily, would help VW restore the public trust.
“We do real-world testing as well for our vehicles and for instance we have done tests with [previous-generation] Passat with and without the defeat software that took place last month in Hamburg, to prove there is no additional fuel consumption with those vehicles [with EA189 engines],” he said.
“In EA288 engines there was no defeat device in the first place, therefore this test doesn’t make sense… I wouldn’t know which test would be applicable to prove on the road that there is no defeat device.”
However, from September next year, real-world testing will be required in the EU. The point is that Volkswagen appears unlikely to do any real-world testing voluntarily until then.
Buhlmann echoed Volkswagen’s recent apologetic corporate stance, saying that: “Me and my 600,000 colleagues have as well been betrayed as the customer has, because I have been promoting diesel for many years and with the knowledge I have today, I said in the past things I shouldn’t have but that’s knowledge I didn’t have then.
“So all we can do is make up for what has been done wrong in the past and make better cars and serve the world markets with finding remedies for 11 million cars.”
As we reported earlier today, an investigation by German Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA) has concluded that the Volkswagen Group was the only car maker to use defeat devices to cheat its way past emissions testing for diesel-engined cars.