Emission scandal

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VW settles emission lawsuit in US

Volkswagen has seen its reputation battered in recent years by the scandal

Volkswagen has settled a lawsuit brought by a North Carolina man whose car was equipped with software that concealed excess diesel emissions right before the case was set to go to trial.

The trial could have featured testimony from current and former VW executives and would likely have caused a spate of bad press for the automaker regarding the Dieselgate scandal.

Before the settlement on Friday, Virginia state court judge, Bruce D. White, rejected a request by the German automaker to delay the trial because of “inflammatory” comments made by a lawyer representing the affected car owners.

David Doar bought a 2014 diesel Jetta for $23,700 and had rejected a settlement offer from a 2016 class-action agreement that would have reimbursed him for the value of the vehicle. He had sought $725,000 plus lawyers’ fees in legal filings.

Volkswagen said early this month that its case has been prejudiced by recent publicity about how the company financed research, in which monkeys were exposed to diesel exhaust.

Nearly all American owners of affected cars agreed to take part in a $25 billion settlement in 2016 that addressed claims from them, environmental regulators, states and dealers. The settlement included buyback offers and additional compensation for about 500,000 owners.

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Mercedes involved in emission scandal

US investigators have found potentially illegal software modifications in Mercedes-Benz diesel cars to help the vehicles pass emissions tests, German newspaper, Bild am Sonntag, said yesterday.

Investigators found that engine management functions called “Slipguard” and “Bit 15” enabled the card to emit NOx pollutants up to ten times higher than legally permitted levels.

Bild am Sonntag cited emails from the automaker’s engineers questioning whether the software functions were legal.

A spokesman for Mercedes owner Daimler declined to comment on the content of the documents, saying the automaker was fully cooperating with the U.S. authorities and had agreed upon strict confidentiality with the Department of Justice.

“The authorities know the documents and no complaint has been filed,” the spokesman said. “The documents available to Bild have obviously selectively been released in order to harm Daimler and its 290,000 employees.”

There has been growing scrutiny of diesel vehicles since Volkswagen admitted in 2015 to installing defective software that allowed them to emit up to 40 times legally allowable emissions while meeting standards when tested by regulators.

The cars had software that switched off performance-reducing emissions control systems during laboratory testing.

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Diesel fume experiments revealed

Reports of experiments that exposed humans and monkeys to diesel fumes have the Volkswagen Group, Daimler and BMW scrambling to distance themselves from the situation. 

The automakers are promising to investigate the tests whose disclosure now threatens to open a new phase in an emissions controversy that’s dogged the industry since 2015. 

Volkswagen has seen its reputation battered in recent years by deepening scandals.

The study, conducted by the European Research Association for Environment and Health in the Transport Sector (EUGT), had 25 people expose themselves to diesel exhaust fumes at different concentrations and for several hours, the Stuttgarter Zeitung newspaper reported Monday.  

The actions further undermine diesel’s image, steepening an uphill battle to rescue the technology amid worsening political headwinds.

“This is another hit for diesel and shows how carmakers overstepped the mark morally and ethically in their fight to make diesel socially acceptable,” said Stefan Bratzel, director of the Centre of Automotive Management in Bergisch Gladbach, Germany.

“This news means more pressure for politicians to act on diesel.”

At the weekend, the German automakers also confirmed that the EUGT researchers they commissioned used monkeys to test the health effects of inhaling diesel fumes. 

The monkeys were exposed to the exhaust fumes of an older and a modern diesel vehicle, so the progress of the technology could be demonstrated. 

The circumstances of the study, and details on how it was conducted, are contained in a sworn deposition of Jake McDonald, a scientist who oversaw the project.

McDonald said in the deposition, which was taken as part of diesel emissions suit filed against Volkswagen, that the monkeys were shown cartoons during hours of tests to help keep them calm.

“We believe that the scientific methods used to conduct the study were wrong and that it would have been better not to undertake it at all,” Volkswagen said in a statement on Monday.

“We are shocked by the extent and application of the studies … We condemn the experiments in the strongest terms,” carmaker Daimler wrote.

The German government also condemned the tests. ‘These tests … are in no ethical way justifiable and they raise many critical questions about those who are behind the tests,” said Steffen Seibert, a spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel.


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Audi to recall 127,000 vehicles

Germany’s automotive watchdog has detected illicit emission-control software in Audi’s latest Euro-6 diesel models and has ordered a recall of 127,000 vehicles, Bild am Sonntag has reported.

Audi, a Volkswagen unit, said in a statement that “the engine control software for the vehicles in question will be completely revised, tested and submitted to the KBA for approval.”

In November, Audi announced a recall of 5,000 cars in Europe for a software fix after discovering they emitted too much nitrogen oxide, the polluting gas that parent Volkswagen concealed from U.S. regulators in its 2015 “dieselgate” scandal.

Several Audi models were also affected and Audi has been accused in media reports of having devised the so-called defeat devices years earlier but not to have installed them in its vehicles at that time. 

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Further probe into the VW emissions scandal

Germany’s financial watchdog, BaFin, said on Friday it was investigating whether Volkswagen illegally disclosed information about its emissions violations to third parties.

Earlier this week, a German court also ruled an independent auditor should be appointed to investigate Volkswagen’s cheating of U.S. diesel engine tests, boosting investors’ hopes for compensation.

On Friday, German magazine Der Spiegel reported that Volkswagen’s CEO at that time, Martin Winterkorn, informed then Transport Minister, Alexander Dobrindt, on September 21, 2015 abut the extent of the carmaker’s violations.

However, VW did not make it known to the public until September 22, 2015 that around 11 million cars were fitted with emission-cheating software.

VW has declined to comment on the latest investigation, but reiterated its view that its management board “duly fulfilled” its obligations regarding capital market disclosure rules.

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Independent auditor to investigate VW scandal

A German court has appointed an independent auditor to investigate Volkswagen’s emissions scandal due to pressure from investors seeking billions of dollars in damages.

The court said in a legally binding decision on Wednesday that an auditor must be appointed and the decision cannot be appealed by the carmaker.

Shortly after “Dieselgate” broke out in September 2015, VW hired U.S. law firm Jones Day and advisory firm Deloitte to investigate the circumstances of its wrongdoing and who was responsible.

Although VW promised to improve transparency, they did not publish the findings that were used as the basis for a $4.3 billion settlement with the U.S. Justice Department.

“This is an extremely good day for the VW shareholders who have lost a lot of money in the wake of the diesel scandal,” DSW Vice President Klaus Nieding said.

“At last, light will be shed on the darkness that has shielded VW for so long.”

The auditor will examine when VW’s top management board first learned of the test cheating and whether it disclosed the possible financial damage to investors promptly.

German securities law also compels firms to publish any sensitive news in a timely fashion.

However, VW has said it believes its management complied with obligations under German disclosure rules.


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One third of VW vehicles still affected

A third of the 1.2 million cars manufactured by Volkswagen with devices to cheat emissions tests remain unfixed, two years after the scandal erupted.

VW admitted back in September 2015 that they had been using software to cheat diesel emission tests in the United States and has since paid out compensation to U.S. motorists but has refused to do so in Europe.

The British parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee said that Volkswagen had slowed the pace of its work in recent months and called on the transport ministry to take action.

“It is over two years since the VW emissions scandal was discovered, a third of vehicles have yet to be fixed and rates have slowed considerably,” said committee Chairwoman Mary Creagh, a lawmaker for the opposition Labour Party.

“The campaign will remain open for the foreseeable future but the 100 percent point can never be reached for the following reasons: Some vehicles will have been scrapped, some written off, some exported and some owners decline or never respond,” a spokesman said.


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