It’s now official. Volkswagen has used ‘defeat devices’ in the diesel cars it sold in India, and Rashmi Urdhwareshe, the director of ARAI has just confirmed this. From budget cars such as the Polo and Vento, to high-end cars such as the Audi A4, A6 and Q7, a range of Volkswagen group vehicles will soon be recalled to remove the ‘defeat devices’ through a remap.
Ms. Urdhwareshe said,
There was a software, which they themselves have said that they would like to change, in India. It was a global disclosure. So, Indian models will also undergo the change. This software is a “derivative of the original software” or defeat device used in the US because it had to deal with “India-specific emission regulations.
They have asked us to authorize their vehicles… model by model they are submitting and we are approving them with due validation and verification. Many of the models have been authorized. They have announced the recall on those models. In another month’s time, the entire process should be over.
First, what is the VW defeat device?
Volkswagen designed this software to be used in their Turbocharged Direct Injection (TDI) engines from 2009 to 2015. The software detects if the car is being tested for emissions. It then activated positive emission controls during the testing process that reduced the NOx output of the vehicle within permissible limit. The software tweaked the engine to reduce pollution level by up to 40 times in the USA market. In other words, the software helped Volkswagen cheat emission tests.
The software was carried out in eleven million cars worldwide and was discovered during research by a University in the USA. The manufacturer was slapped with a huge fine in the USA and was asked to buy back the affected vehicles. VW announced that the company would spend 18.32 billion USD for solving the issue in the USA. The company was fined 4.3 billion USD for cheating the people and the government too. The scandal saw top honchos of the company putting down their papers too.
What happened in India?
The automotive giant first said that the cars sold in India do not have the cheat device and yet their cars meet the pollution norms set by the Indian government. On December 1, 2015, the company announced that 3.23 lakh vehicles are affected in the country after the government ordered a probe into the matter. After a meeting between VW officials and ARAI, Volkswagen issued a recall for their Skoda, Audi and VW cars that are fitted with the E189 TDI engine, which also carried the cheat device.
The EA 189 engine series includes 1.2-litre, 1.5-litre, 1.6-litre ad 2.0-litre diesel engines that powered 198,500 cars from Volkswagen, 88,700 cars from Skoda and 36,500 cars from Audi brand in India.
What goes unanswered?
1. Did the defeat device used by VW flout Indian emission norms?
There are no definitive answers from the Volkswagen India management or ARAI on the same. None of them mentions about the emission flouting.
2. If it did, why just a recall while other countries have levied much larger punitive fines?
VW is spending billions of dollars to repay the customers and the government in many other nations for the cheat device, but the Indian customers are just receiving an updated software and a new filter. Why?
3. If it didn’t, why recall at all?
If the Indian VW branded cars are not flouting the norms at all, then why the recall exercise at all? It is to fix something that is not broken or the VW owners in India are being kept in the dark?
4. What are the effects of the software change?
The recall ditches the software that changes the way engine acts during the normal conditions (when it is not being tested). The updated software will eliminate the car’s normal running cycle, and the engine will always be in test cycle mode, breathing out fewer pollutants. The updated software could affect the car’s performance and the fuel efficiency, but the real world tests are yet to be done to the reprogrammed vehicles.