The scandal of the diesel car emissions that made CEO Martin Winterkorn to resign, is threatening to cost VW around $7.3 billion, and it all started with a routine test two years ago in West Virginia.
Without it, the hidden software on the 2.0 litre diesel cars would have never been found. This meant that when being tested for harmful emissions coming out of the tailpipe, things looked normal. But during regular drivings the pollution control systems shut down, which allowed 11 million cars worldwide to produce up to 40 times the allowable smog-forming pollution in the U.S.
Drew Kodjak, executive director of the International Council for Clean Transportation said in an interview on Wednesday that “We’re a tiny, non-governmental organization. It was really happenstance that this was ultimately uncovered.”
In 2013, this organisation paid for a study led by the West Virginia University when there were inquiries about European emission standards and if the cars are emitting too much nitrogen oxides linked to smog. There were three cars tested for the U.S. market: a 2012 VW Jetta, a BMW X5 and a 2013 VW Passat.
U.S regulations are tougher than the ones from Europe, so the testers expected the cars to perform better. While the BMW results were okay, the two Volkswagens had significantly higher-than-expected emissions, even after a series of tests.
After the report was published, it did not get too much attention, but it did make it to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and California Air Resources Board (CARB) open investigations.
In response to the tests conducted by the EPA and CARB, Volkswagen issued two independent recalls in December 2014 and March 2015 labelled as service campaigns for certain cars. The automaker assured the EPA and CARB that there were no problems anymore after that, with 196,000 cars being given the new software out of 390,000 cars identified by the German carmaker at the time.