Volkswagen board member Jurgen Stackmann was in India a few weeks ago, to unveil the Ameo compact sedan. Just before unveiling the German automaker’s latest car for India, Stackmann began with apologizing for the emissions scandal, and noted that “our cars fully comply with Indian emission standards“. But was Stackmann completely honest? This question was recently put to Anant Geete, the Union Minister for Heavy Industries. Minister Geete disagrees, and here’s why.
Minister Geete said,
ARAI (Automotive Research Association of India) conducted checks on cars produced at Volkswagen’s factory and the cars met the norms. But when these were checked on the road, their emissions were nine times higher. We approached Volkswagen with these facts and pointed out that they had fitted a device that gives a directive to the engine on how should it be run — whether on a test run or not. Volkswagen agreed that they fitted their cars with this device.
There are some pressing questions here,
Do Volkswagen cars comply with Indian emission norms?
Yes, they do, on the test bench/run.
Do Volkswagen diesel cars pollute India’s air?
They do. Simply because the “defeat devices” fitted in Volkswagen cars sense that the cars are no longer on the test bench, and make them emit much higher emissions.
So, when Mr. Stuckmann says “our cars meet Indian emission norms”, it means that VW cars meet emission norms on the test bench, and not in the real world. Bottomline: Volkswagen cars are polluting India’s air through the defeat device. And Mr. Stackmann is lying, if Minister Geete is to be believed.
How this matters to VW diesel car owners in India:
1. Until Volkswagen India removes the defeat devices from the EA189 diesel engined cars, these vehicles will pollute more.
2. After the defeat device is removed through a ECU remap, it remains to be seen if the remap (fix) does not reduce power and torque. VW says that power and torque will not be affected after the fix.
3. Resale value of the cars may be affected due to the uncertainty regarding the pollution and performance levels, and the so-called “fix” to resolve it.
Now, let’s look at Jurgen Stackmann’s full statement during the unveil of the Ameo,
Volkswagen made some big mistakes. I am truly sorry for that. And I assure you, we are committed to make things right. We want to win back the trust in our brand. I know that many of our Indian customers are wondering whether their cars might be affected too. We have examined the issue very carefully under the observation of the authorities. And we came to the conclusion that our cars fully comply with Indian emission standards. However, winning back trust means more for us than just obeying the law. Volkswagen wants totally satisfied customers so we will voluntarily update all the vehicles with EA 189 engines in India, making them as clean as the affected cars in Europe. And we will do this at no cost to the owners. That is our promise to our customers here in India. Nevertheless, because we believe there is a fine difference between being legal and compliant and actually we are gaining trust of consumers that we started voluntary recall… To give them same upgrade that we do in Europe.
This is clever wordplay, aimed at changing the narrative around VW’s Dieselgate in India.
1. Stackmann doesn’t talk about fitting defeat devices in VW cars sold in India, when his company has admitted to doing so, to the Indian authorities.
2. He further misleads the audience by saying that “VW will voluntarily update EA189 diesel engines, making them as clean as the affected cars in Europe“. But how can Indian cars not be “affected” when they’re fitted with defeat devices too?
3. He talks about “upgrading” Volkswagen diesel cars sold in India, when there’s no such upgrade being performed. In fact, removing the defeat device that’s polluting India’s air is something that any ethical company ought to do, and Volkswagen isn’t doing any favour to its customers here by calling it an “upgrade“.
4. By saying that VW is recalling cars in India for “totally satisfied customers“, Stackmann is presenting a different narrative to Volkswagen diesel car owners, a narrative that hides the presence of the defeat device, and higher tail pipe emissions.