Passing emissions tests has never been a particular pleasure for automobile owners. However, most people go ahead and get it done anyway, even if it slices a valuable portion of the day away. Not so for corporate Volkswagen. As of late September, VW announced the recall of 11 million diesel cars worldwide which had been rigged to cheat emissions tests.
An emissions test measures exhaust emissions from automobile engines. The exhaust emissions contain hazardous materials released from a combustion engine, the safe levels of which are checked by the emissions test. Most combustion engines release harmful pollutants into the environment. Emissions tests provide the important service of making sure that exhaust emissions are being kept to the regulated levels in order to help preserve the global environment.
Volkswagen released a diesel model that was supposedly both fuel-efficient and emissions-friendly. However, the two couldn’t happen at the same time. VW installed software in the model that turned on the emissions system when the computer was being tested, but which then turned the software off when the car was out on the roads. This means that while the car was undergoing important testing, it appeared that the emissions were well under control. When the car got onto the road, it did indeed get the gas mileage it claimed, but at the cost of producing high levels of emissions.
A clever ruse, but not clever enough. VW got caught red-handed, and so far the CEO of VW has resigned and German prosecutors are looking at placing criminal charges against him. Stock prices for VW have dropped significantly and the company is facing potential fines from the U.S. of up to $18 billion. Ouch. It seems it might have been simpler to use money of that magnitude to produce a diesel car that actually could get the emissions and gas mileage promised by the original model.