The Volkswagen emissions scandal was uncovered only by accident – US university researchers could not afford to rent more expensive cars to conduct their emissions tests.
So, according to today's The Mail on Sunday, the American engineers rented a VW Passat and a VW Jetta saloon instead without knowing the cars were ﬁtted with a device that would help them pass emissions standards.
The engineers who discovered Volkswagen’s use of a ‘cheat device’ to pass EPA emissions tests, said that ideally they wanted to test vehicles made by BMW and Mercedes-Benz, but their cars were “too pricey to rent”.
The results obtained from the Passat and Jetta showed the two VW models “would pump out as much as 40 times the allowed levels of nitrogen oxide”, according to the UK newspaper.
The testers spent a month driving the three cars – they also used a BMW X5 sports utility vehicle – around California using specialist monitoring equipment.
The results showed the two VW models could produce as much as 40 times the allowed levels of nitrogen oxide, a figure later corroborated by the US Environmental Protection Agency and California Air Resources Board.
The newspaper claimed the report “sent the German car ﬁrm into near meltdown”.
Daniel Carder, who led the testing team from the Centre for Alternative Fuels, Engines and Emissions (CAFEE) at West Virginia University, said: ‘We didn’t set out to trap Volkswagen – it was just that we could spend less money on using their cars.’
More than 11 million cars are being recalled worldwide, with 1.2 million of those in the UK.
According to The Mail on Sunday, VW said yesterday (Saturday) said it had been forced to drop the Royal Warrant from its communications in the wake of the scandal.
The company is reported to have set aside £4.7 billion to deal with the fallout from the scandal, but analysts at Credit Suisse say it could cost it closer to £56 billion.
Meanwhile, a survey found that public trust in the car industry has been “badly damaged”, with nearly eight in 10 people now saying they expect more manufacturers to be drawn in to the scandal.
Having discovered the cheap-to-rent diesel Passat and Jetta were contravening EPA emission rules, with multi-billion dollar implications for VW, the West Virginia University team could surely then have raised the relatively small amount of further funding to hire more expensive Mercedes and BMW diesels in order to check out their real-life NOx levels.
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