Emissions Scandal & The Diesel Engine
So I’ve been thinking about and talking about the emissions scandal a lot over the past few weeks with people from all walks in the trade and my opinion varies…it varies from the “meh, I couldn’t give a monkeys” to the “how the hell can a company of such a size get away with something as massive as this?”.
The second opinion hits me in a fit of rage usually after a discussion about other daily societal disgruntlements but invariably the realist in me thinks…am I really surprised? Am I really surprised that a global company can strategically and tactically lie to the globe in order for monumental financial gain?
I read sporadically written in our papers about alleged corporation tax avoidance schemes and safe havens offered by our government in order to secure the so called big fish. We in Ireland have the prestige of having some of the biggest companies in the world call our country home but are we really that naive to think it’s because we offer the highest skill levels and experts in fields etc? Or is it because we have plenty of cheap addresses in the IFSC that if you rent a cubicle in you can avail of our cheap corporate tax rates. Ok rant over…so back to the other point….Emissions.
As of today it has been announced that even more of the VAG brand vehicles (VW, Audi, Skoda, Seat, Porsche) are now involved in the “cheat device” scandal. Not surprising at all as they share so many of their major components not least their engines. Low emissions Diesel engines are not new…but the super-efficient blue badges on today’s modern diesel was being pitched at us, as a market, as the future of engines. Clearly the traditional coal burner engine has been hiding a dark secret for the past few years and its black smoky past is coming up fast behind it!
The main component we’re told that is helping the cars pass these tests is the so called “cheat device”. A cunning piece of software hidden deep in the brain of the car that notices a very specific set of engine conditions under test and shuts down/activates various parts of the EGR/DPF and Engine management systems to reduce the emissions sufficiently to cheat the test. Simple right? But who supplies these computer programs? Who supplies these engine ECU’s…Rarely the manufacturer. Most (not all) vehicle computer brains are manufactured by a small number of companies e.g Bosch/Siemens etc to name a couple (not accusing the aforementioned). It’s hard to believe that similar software isn’t being mass produced in these computer brains and sold across many of the most well known brands we all know and drive.
More and more on a day to day basis I repair, often at great expense and difficulty, modern Diesel engines with DPF (diesel particulate filter) and EGR (exhaust gas recirculating) issues. Customers with young Diesel engines spending up to five figures at times repairing issues that are extremely difficult to diagnose and repair and don’t always resolve the issue at hand. A primary issue for today’s modern diesel driver is that the vehicle simply doesn’t get driven hard enough to properly aspirate and decarbonize itself. In essence a modern diesel car gets driven from A to B at low revs and small distances not allowing proper temperature or sufficient air pressure to burn and re-burn the heavily carbonized fumes that are supposed to be belching out the exhaust pipe!
Today I had a customer with a 2010 seat Leon with a mere 20,000km on the clock fail it’s NCT for emissions fail on smoke test. He only had the car serviced with me using the correct spec oil and filters a week previous and we gave it a full bill of health, a fine car. Instantly when he came in the door and showed me the test sheet I knew the problem. It’s embarrassing for us as a service provider. This poor old man can’t possibly drive this car enough or correctly to stand a chance of it running well. His car is essentially driving around from his house to the shops a couple of times a week slowly choking itself to a soot filled grave. However I still look a bit of a fool trying to tell a customer that his €18,000 Leon is dying because he’s not rallying it up through the gears from time to time. He looks at me like I’m joking. So I’ve booked him in to leave the car with me for two days and all I will try resolve this issue with this car by bringing the car to the motorway and driving it from Dublin to Bray and back in 4th gear @ 110kmph to try and blow the be-jaysus out of it. I’ll supply him a smoke test report and a fee for the same if it works.
I ask myself should a 75 year old man have been sold a Diesel engine on the promise of fuel efficiency, low emissions, low tax etc if he knew what his complicated future held for his car? Doubt it.
But that was/is the promise…all manufacturers did it and are still to a certain extent, although I think the R&D departments of the major brands globally are frantically turning pages back to their petrol engines of a few years ago to find a petrol design worth pushing. Has anyone else noticed the emergence of the low cc high power petrol engine? 1200cc turbo petrol etc? The emergence of these petrol engines is not surprising with all the above being realized over the last few years.
So after all my musings above I have the following things to ponder…
- Is this the tip of the iceberg for VW group? How far does this tapestry of secrecy and deceit stretch back?? I shudder to think!
- Why are none of the other major manufacturers on the charm offensive saying “our diesels are clean!” Come buy from us!!!” My suspicion is high as to why not.
- Will we as a nation and as a globe swallow the brick that the people at the top of VW were blissfully unaware this went on? I’m hoping we have more sense.
- Is it possible that there are some very well known software companies and hardware manufacturers out there who have been paid millions possibly billions of dollars to produce similar software for the vast majority of brands worldwide and that the ruthless nature of global organizations mean that the only thing that really matters is making a buck and not getting caught?? A great possibility I suspect.
And here’s the little old independent garage at the end of the totem pole, fixing the poor design, breaking news of another high repair bill and expensive part to be replaced…meeting and seeing the results of this day to day seeing it really affecting people. People who were lied to by fancy ad campaigns and crazy money behind them.
I don’t think this is a new scenario and it certainly isn’t limited to this situation or this company…it’s sadly part of a life…let the buyer beware!
Talk to your local well experienced friends at Crofton Motors before your next purchase!
Joey Donnelly – Crofton Motors Ltd – 4th November 2015
Image Credit – TheGuardian.Com