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Audi accused of more emissions cheating

The German government has accusing Audi of cheating emissions tests with its top-end models. It’s the first time Audi has been accused of emissions cheating in its home country.

The German transport ministry has asked Audi to recall around 24,000 A7 and A8 models built between 2009 and 2013, around half of which were sold in Germany, Reuters reports.

A ministry spokesman told Reuters that VW CEO Matthias Mueller was summoned to the transport ministry, but didn’t elaborate.

The ministry said that recalled Audi models which were supposedly Euro-5 emission standards but in fact emitted twice the legal limit of nitrogen oxide when the steering wheel is turned more than 15 degrees.

The ministry has also issued a deadline of June 12 for Audi to come up with a plan to refit the affected cars. Audi issued a recall for the affected cars on Thursday, and said software updates will start in July.

An Audi source told Reuters the discrepancy in emissions is due to a faulty interaction between transmission and engine control units, and a proposal for a fix has already been submitted to the KBA.

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Researchers find VW ‘defeat device’

A team of researchers from around the world have found the code buried deep in onboard software which enabled Volkswagen to circumvent American and European emissions tests for over six years before allegations of cheating surfaced in 2015.

The researchers, led by computer scientist Krill Levchenko from the University of California San Diego, obtained copies of Volkswagen onboard software from the company’s own maintenance website and from various forums online run by car enthusiasts, said the UC San Diego News Centre.

“We found evidence of the fraud right there in public view,” Levchenko said. “We found the system and how it was used.”

The code allowed the car’s onboard computer to determine the vehicle was undergoing an emissions test, and then activate emission-curbing systems to lower the pollutants emitted.

When a car is tested for emissions levels, it is placed on a chassis equipped with a dynamometer, which measures the engine’s power output. The test then begins a specific speed profile designed to imitate real-world urban driving with frequent stops.

Because the conditions for this test are standard across all stations, and publicly available, manufacturers are able to anticipate the exact conditions of the test. The code found in Volkswagen vehicles checks the speed, distance, and wheel position, and if it matches the conditions of the emissions test, the code will allow the onboard computer to activate the emissions-curbing system.

When the test was over, the onboard computer then deactivated these systems. Cars emitted up to 40 times the amount of nitrogen oxide allowed under US regulations once the emissions-curbing software was deactivated.

 “The Volkswagen defeat device is arguably the most complex in automotive history,” Levchenko said.

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US sues Fiat Chrysler for emissions cheating

The US Justice Department has filed a lawsuit against Fiat Chrysler, accusing the car maker of illegally using software to bypass emissions testing regulations in over 104,000 diesel vehicles, namely Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge RAM trucks, sold since 2014.

Fiat Chrysler denies any wrongdoing and said on Tuesday it was disappointed that the US had filed the suit. According to Reuters, a spokesperson said the car maker would defend all allegations “it engaged in any deliberate scheme to install defeat devices to cheat U.S. emissions tests.”

The lawsuit alleges Fiat Chrysler installed ‘defeat devices’ between 2014 and 2016, which led to illegal levels of nitrogen oxide, and asks the district court to order a fix on all affected vehicles and a sales ban.

The civil case could result in a fine of up to $64,200 for each vehicle sold after November 2015, when news of the emissions scandal first broke worldwide, and $52,300 for those sold prior to this date – a total of over $6.5 billion, according to Reuters.

It’s not the first time Fiat Chrysler has found itself int he middle of an emissions scandal. In January, the EPA and the state of California filed a separate lawsuit against the car maker alleging the use of defeat devices. German transport minister Alexander Dobrindt also called for the affected vehicles to be pulled from European markets.

Both vehicles at the centre of the lawsuit are available for sale in New Zealand through certain dealers. New Zealand has no emissions standard testing or requirements for diesel vehicles, and the government currently has no plans to introduce any in the future.

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Judge OK’s 3-litre VW settlement

A federal judge has granted final approval on an agreement for embattled car maker Volkswagen to fix and buy back over 80,000 3.0-litre diesels in the United States, at an estimated cost of over $1.7 billion.

Owners of affected vehicles will be compensated between $10,000 and $23,000 if they chose to opt for fixes. Volkswagen could be forced to pay up to $5.8 billion if the fixes for 3.0-litre diesels are not approved by American regulators

The ruling is one of the final acts in the long-running emissions scandal, which began in October 2015 when it was revealed Volkswagen had fitted diesel vehicles with so-called ‘defeat devices’ to cheat emissions tests.

A separate settlement to fix or buy back 475,000 polluting 2.0-litre diesel vehicles was approved last spring.

Volkswagen spokeswoman Jeannine Ginivan told Reuters the settlement “marks an important milestone for Volkswagen and means that a resolution is available to all of our customers.”

In total, Volkswagen has agreed to spend $36.33 billion on various settlements. Last month, the car maker was sentenced to three years probation after pleading guilty to criminal charges, and agreed to broad reforms and independent oversight.

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VW sentenced to probation, oversight

A Detroit federal judge sentence Volkswagen AG to three years’ probation and oversight over the weekend as part of the $6.1 billion settlement first announced in January.

An independent monitor will oversee Volkswagen’s American operations in one of the last major legal judgements since the scandal broke in September 2015.

“This is a case of deliberate and massive fraud,” US district judge Sean Cox said in his ruling. Cox also approved the $4 billion criminal fine as part of the settlement.

Volkswagen has agreed to spend up to $35 billion in the US to settle buyback and repair claims from car owners, states, dealers and environmental regulators.

General counsel Manfred Doess said Volkwagen “deeply regrets the behaviour that gave rise to this case. Plain and simple, it was wrong.”

The US Justice Department has also selected the car maker’s independent monitor. Former deputy US attorney general Larry Thompson was announced over the weekend.

Seven current and former Volkswagen executives have been charged in relation to the emissions scandal, with one executive awaiting trial in custody and another pleading guilty and agreeing to cooperate with authorities.

“We have worked tirelessly to address the misconduct that took place within our company and make things right for our affected customers,” The car maker said in a statement following the sentencing.

“Volkswagen today is not the same company it was 19 months ago.”

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VW bought back 244,000 cars in the US

Volkswagen has told a US judge that the company has bought back or repaired 244,000 of the 475,000 polluting 2.0-litre diesel vehicles after first launching its repurchase offer last October.

The car maker pleaded guilty last month to fraud, obstruction of justice and falsifying documents last month, and has agreed to pay $36 billion in total in buybacks, settlements, and penalties.

Volkswagen said it repurchased and terminated leases on nearly 238,000 vehicles and repaired a further 6,200. In February, the company said it had spent $4.14 billion on buybacks.

Volkswagen has until 2019 to buy back or repair at least 85 per cent of affected vehicles or face additional penalties under the settlement.

A judge has also granted preliminary approval for Volkswagen’s 3.0-litre buyback plan, at the cost of $1.75 billion. Nearly 80,000 3.0-litre vehicles, including Porsche, Audi and VW SUVs, were affected.

A hearing is scheduled for May 11 to grant the 3.0-litre buyback final approval.

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VW settles with 10 more US states

German car maker Volkswagen announced in a statement that it has agreed to settle environmental claims from 10 US states over its illegal excess diesel emissions for $224 million in an effort to move past the ongoing scandal.

The settlement covers mainly eastern states, including New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, and also covers some consumer claims.

“The agreement avoids further prolonged and costly litigation as Volkswagen continues to work to earn back the trust of its customers, regulators and the public,” The car maker said in its statement on the matter.

This brings the total bill for VW up to $35.75 billion in the United States alone, resolving claims and buying back affected vehicles from owners, states, dealerships and environmental regulators.

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London, Paris to launch new emissions system

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo and London Mayor Sadiq Khan jointly announced yesterday that they are working together to creating a vehicle rating system which would score new cars based on real-world emissions and their impact on air quality.

Current schemes, such as the EU standards, only regulate some noxious emissions and require vehicles to meet laboratory condition standards, despite the fact that actual on-road emissions have been proven to exceed this limit by up to 15 times.

Recent scandals have destroyed public confidence in the current emissions legislation, and a study conducted by the German transport ministry in 2016 showed that some diesel cars that meet the highest EU environmental standards, rated Euro 6, actually release more nitrogen oxide and nitrogen dioxide than a modern heavy-duty truck.

The new scheme allocates each model of car with a score based on the air pollutants they release during real-world, on-road conditions, which will be available to the public through dedicated websites.

Paris and London have committed to launch this online data by the end of 2017.

 “For too long, some vehicle manufacturers have been able to hide behind inconsistent regulation and consumer uncertainty about the damage their cars are causing,” said Hidalgo at the meeting.

“This announcement is a wake-up call to car companies that they need to act now.”

 “My scheme will put an end to the smoke and mirrors that have been employed in official emissions tests. It will provide Londoners with an honest, accurate and independent evaluation of the emissions of most new cars and vans on our roads and on the showroom forecourt,” said Khan.

“By having ‘on the road’ testing, I believe we will help Londoners make an informed choice and incentivise manufacturers to build cleaner vehicles sooner.”

“The toxicity of the air in London and many other big cities is an outrage, and schemes of the type we are introducing in London and Paris have the potential to make a massive difference to the quality of the air we all breathe.”

Several other cities, including Seoul, Madrid, Mexico City, Milan, Moscow, Oslo and Tokyo have all committed to work to develop a relevant local scoring system and make it available to the public.

“Tackling vehicle emissions is a priority if you are to tackle air pollution in your city,” said Seoul mayor Wonsoon Park. “As cities made significant contributions toward the adoption of the Paris Agreement, the concerted effort shown by cities today to tackle air pollution will make air cleaner for our citizens to breathe.”

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France to investigate Fiat Chrysler

French prosecutors have confirmed a formal investigation into Fiat Chrysler has been opened over allegations the car maker cheated in diesel emissions tests.

“I can confirm that a judicial investigation has been opened into aggravated cheating,” a judicial source told Reuters.

The investigation was opened on March 15 on advice from the finance ministry’s consumer affairs and anti-fraud body, DGCCRF.

A spokesman for Fiat told Reuters the company took note of the investigation and told Reuters its diesel vehicles fully comply with emission regulations, as confirmed by the Italian Transport Ministry.

The investigation comes as several European countries found on-road nitrogen oxide emissions more than 10 times above regulatory limits for some GM, Renault and Fiat Chrysler diesel vehicles after launching their own tests. Widespread use of defeat devices was also noted.

The French test programme launched by environment minister Segolene Royal has led to Volkswagen, Renault Fiat Chrysler and PSA Group all being referred on to prosecutors.

Fiat Chrysler vehicles were among those that recorded the highest toxic nitrogen emissions.

In the UK, the government is testing the emissions of Fiat Chrysler’s Jeep Grand Cherokee, according to the BBC.

The UK Department for Transport has also asked for details of an investigation the United States Environmental Protection Agency conducted into Fiat Chrysler’s diesel emissions software.

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France closes Opel investigation

French regulator DGCCRF closed its investigation into diesel emissions by Opel cars overnight and said it would take no further action against General Motors.

The probe “did not bring to light any evidence of fraud,” the government bureau said in a statement.

Questions around Opel (and its British counterpart Vauxhall) have been swirling since the Volkswagen scandal first broke in September 2015. In October 2015, German environmental group Deutsche Umwelthilfe claimed that testing showed the 1.6-litre diesel Opel Zafira exceeded 2014 EU emissions thresholds under certain circumstances.

The following May, a joint investigation between Der Spiegel and German news programme monitor suggested a number of Zafira and Insignia diesel models to contain devices that would deactivate filtration systems.

The German transport ministry demanded answers from General Motors and Opel, who vehemently denied any wrongdoing. In response, Opel published a lengthy report explaining how and why the software uncovered by the investigation was technically legal under EU emissions regulations.

Last month, Opel was sold to PSA Group, which includes the Citroen and Peugeot marques, as GM sought to extricate itself from its struggling European holdings.

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VW executive remains in prison over emissions case

A Detroit judge has refused to set a bond and release a German Volkswagen executive who was arrested while on holiday in Florida last year.

Oliver Schmidt’s lawyers attempted to persuade the judge to set a bond, saying Schmidt would stay in the Detroit area under electronic monitoring and return for subsequent court hearings. Prosecutors, however, argued that he no ties to the U.S. and would be out of jurisdiction if he fled to his home country of Germany.  

U.S. district judge Sean Cox said it was a “very, very serious case.” His decision means Schmidt will remain behind bars while the case moves through the district court.

Schmidt’s trial is due to begin on January 16 next year. He is charged with 11 felony counts and could face up to 169 years in prison, according to Reuters.

Schmidt is one of seven VW employees charged in a long-running scheme to cheat emissions standards in the U.S. by installing illegal software on diesel vehicles. As Germany doesn’t extradite its citizens, the other five German executives facing charges may never see the courtroom.

In Detroit, Schmidt pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy and fraud. Until the scandal broke, he was the manager of VW’s environment and engineering office. He is accused of lying to U.S regulars by saying technical issues, not illegal software, were behind the discrepancies between diesel emissions in road and lab tests.

Last week, VW pleaded guilty to carious charges and agreed to pay back $6.2 billion in civil and criminal penalties. Total expenses for the embattled auto company are expected to exceed $30 billion.

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