‘Dieselgate’ Isn’t Just About Volkswagen Anymore

PATRIK STOLLARZ/AFP/Getty Images

PATRIK STOLLARZ/AFP/Getty Images

One of the biggest stories making the rounds in the auto industry right now is the Volkswagen diesel scandal. Everybody’s talking about how Volkswagen diesel cars got very different numbers on independent tests than they did from the company, and how that’s resulted in a lot of problems for the traditional German automaker.

But now, researchers are finding that the problem goes beyond Volkswagen’s doors. To be clear, those pointing out discrepancies aren’t saying that all of these other companies are putting cheat devices in place or deviously trying to fraudulently report emissions, but they are saying that current tests may not be stringent enough.

Adac, Europe’s biggest auto industry group, says some tested diesel cars from a range of makers put out more than 10 times more NOx (mono-nitrogen oxides) omissions than previous tests indicated. Part of the difference is due to a longer lab tests that officials are looking at introducing in coming years; now, regulators use the New European Driving Cycle or NEDC test. A new WLTC test that experts describe as more intensive is part of what’s showing the inflated emissions rates.

Some of the more radical differences relate to Peugeot, Renault and Citroen models – but that’s not all: Other tests show that this problem goes all around the world, from Japanese models like Nissan’s X-Trail 1.6 cDi (one of the worst offenders at 14 times more emissions) to Jeep’s Renegade 2.0 as well as some models from Hyundai and Volvo, among others.

In reaction to the recent news, some experts are coming out with a kind of half-hearted response. There’s the input from Peter Mock of the International Council on Clean Transportation who has told the Guardian that “people knew for a long time” and that available data should have resulted in much lower emissions years ago, as the world started coming together to tackle climate change. In fact, this is one of the buried headlines of the Volkswagen emissions story — that it’s not just about making shareholders whole and making sure that car owners don’t lose value. It’s about the environment, and just like cheating on state emissions tests, cheating on agency emissions ratings really hurts future generations who have to live on the planet.

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Source: Volkswagen

Car makers are circling the wagons and coming up with statements to try to appease public outrage over the previously undisclosed higher emissions rates. Peugeot Citroën says the company “complies with the approval procedures in effect in all countries where it operates, and that engine settings, assuming the same conditions of use, are identical whether for approval procedures or in real life.”

Mazda, in Japan, which sells a lot of diesel vehicles, has also come out with a statement on September 29: “In compliance with the law, Mazda works hard to ensure that every gasoline and diesel engine it makes fully complies with the regulations of the countries in which they are sold. Mazda never uses illegal software or defeat devices. Mazda’s customers may rest assured that their vehicles are fully compliant with all regulations.”

Other Japanese auto makers Nissan and Toyota have been relatively mum on the issue, and statements are not evidently available online, while venues like Bloomberg Business report staffers there did not provide comment.

Meanwhile, American regulators, including the E.P.A. and the California Air Resources Board, are hard at work digging deeper into the issue, as covered in this New York Times feature. U.S. officials seem dedicated to protecting American car owners, as well as enforcing emissions standards in place in U.S. states. Look for more as scientists continue to look into what kinds of carbon footprint our cars really have.

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