This USA Today article indicates that the Bosch Corporation—you know, the important fuel-injection guys—warned VW not to use certain software during normal operation, in 2007. Then in 2011, a Volkswagen technician reportedly raised concerns about illegal practices and emissions levels.
Seems there was some (diesel) smoke early on, a warning about a smoldering fire.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe VW’s despicable deceit will hurt the future market for diesel cars in the USA, like GM’s pathetic first attempt to make light-duty automotive diesels decades ago? The action was very different, but could a generally negative public perception of diesel power return? This article argues yes. http://autoweek.com/article/car-news/why-volkswagens-diesel-betrayal-different
The author makes valid points about alternative technologies getting better, heck, even gasoline-powered cars have become extremely efficient and economical (if we buy those models). My guess is that VW’s 2.0L TDI engines could have met the standards, still drive well, while obtaining slightly fewer miles-per-gallon. How much less is the question. Maybe two–three mpg on the highway? If that’s the number was it worth the trouble VW? Would people have avoided purchasing TDI cars because the EPA rating was lower and/or the cars obtained slightly less mpg?
Maybe we will find out if there is an ECM update recall that corrects the programming, making the cars meet standards. If so I’ll likely do a back-to-back freeway fuel-economy test to document the change. When the 2.0L TDI engines conform there might be consequences, like the particulate trap might fill sooner, and the car may not meet emissions system warranty standards set by the EPA.
As a former owner of the 1.9L TDI with its relatively modest 90 horsepower and 155 lb-ft of torque (2000 specs), and a current owner of a 2013, no-DEF injection, 2.0L TDI Jetta Sportwagen that makes an impressive 140 horsepower and 236 lb-ft, the slight reduction in real-world fuel economy from the newer car remains impressive. Both were equipped with manual transmissions, which helps economy, performance, and driving pleasure. The ’13 2.0L has a 6-speed tranny with an extra cog on top, and the taller final-drive ratio lets the engine turn fewer rpm, which surely helps.
If diesel car sales are severely and permanently damaged in the USA because of VW’s actions it will be unfortunate for enthusiasts, the engine design and technology has so much to offer, still. However, even if this does happen I’m confident it will not hurt the diesel truck market. The buyers are generally not the same folks, as the green diesel car market and the impressively powerful (and efficient) full-size light-truck diesels target different customers. Diesel-powered trucks and commercial equipment are going to continue doing work and moving freight for the foreseeable future. Decades.
As a longtime diesel aficionado, I have some thoughts about the recent revelation regarding Volkswagen’s intentional cheating on emissions tests, allowing vehicles to apparently meet standards when they actually did not while traveling on public roads.
2000 VW Golf TDI
Looking Back Before Looking Forward
We have already passed the crossroads for light-duty diesel acceptance in the USA. The overly belabored weaknesses of 1970s and 1980s G.M. diesel designs have finally faded in the press (which occurred long ago in the minds of most consumers).
Installing the naturally-aspirated International 6.9L V8 in 1983 Ford F-series pickups was a good, modest start. A positive diesel future was sealed when Chrysler and heavy-duty engine manufacturer Cummins installed the venerable 5.9L ISB turbodiesel in a mature Dodge pickup body. Light-duty diesel emission requirements were limited in those days, but have been updated several times since, becoming much more stringent. Yet manufacturers have developed technologies to meet the standards while simultaneously and dramatically improving performance. The massive toque and horsepower offered in newer diesel pickups from Ford, GM, and Ram were reserved for medium-duty and larger commercial trucks just a few years ago. Sometimes manufacturers even met future emissions requirements early, as Cummins did at one point with their 6.7L ISB.
More Diesel Cars Please
Smaller automotive diesel options (cars) have been few, with VW and Mercedes being the main players in the U.S. for decades, and BMW joining the fray more recently. VW has been the volume seller of diesel automobiles, which has much to do with the lower price of their vehicles and the miles-per-gallon they have been able to squeeze from a gallon of fuel.
1.9L VW TDI engine. Not the part of the current controversy.
The unfolding scandal interests me not only because of my enthusiasm for turbodiesel cars and light-trucks, but I also have a long standing connection to the VW brand. In my youth, my first two vehicles were 60s vintage VW Beetles. Before that, I literally learned to drive a manual transmission in my Papa’s 1978 VW Rabbit diesel 4-speed. Two decades later my wife and I owned a 2000 Golf TDI, putting 166,000 miles on the odometer before taking advantage of the excellent diesel resale value, and buying a new, 2013 Jetta Sportwagen “clean diesel”. Siblings and parents own VWs, and with my encouragement two cousins purchased late model VW TDIs.
Is this ridiculousness by VW going to hurt diesel sales from other manufacturers in the long run? I don’t think so. The emissions are extremely low (when met) and the economy and performance advantages many.