What navigating the VW-diesel-vehicle-recall road ahead may look like

Vehicle-emissions testing is a subject here that comes up every once and again. Vehicle-emissions testing has lately been in the spotlight on account of the controversy surrounding diesel-vehicle-exhaust-emissions rigging in the 11 million Volkswagen diesel-powered motor vehicles affected worldwide, which the company has admitted to. A big problem is how all of the fallout connected with this is going to be dealt with.

Under emissions-testing procedures, the vehicles’ engines apparently met specifications, that is, absent any further technical (mechanical and/or electrical/electronic) issues. However, when not undergoing emissions testing or under normal operating conditions, that is when in regular operation, the exhaust released contained anywhere from between 10 and 40 times the acceptable amounts of oxides of nitrogen or NOx emissions depending upon vehicle. On-board vehicle software is to blame in this particular circumstance; such referred to as a “defeat device” as per Clean Air Act definition. The motor vehicles affected are the Jetta, Beetle and Golf, model years 2009-2015; the Audi A3, model years 2009-2015; and the Passat, model years 2014-2015.

The big question is what will be done to correct the problems.

Firstly, there is no simple answer. For starters, recalls issued could mean changes to the software or computer hardware which could result in somewhat decreased engine performance and fuel efficiency. Secondly, to bring each and every affected vehicle into NOx emissions spec., required could be chemical treatment of the exhaust using what is called urea. As to the matter of urea storage, to store the chemical onboard the vehicle would require adding a storage tank of some kind, but where such tank would be placed on said vehicles is a gray area. Would it go in the trunk of cars; would the fuel tanks be replaced or modified with storage capability for both diesel fuel and urea – the two kept separated, of course. It is too early to know at this point, though, it is presumed that all those owning affected vehicles will be notified as long as they can be located.

But there is a caveat: That is, the affected Volkswagen diesel vehicle owners may be reluctant to respond to the recalls preferring instead to leave things as is with the understanding that performance and fuel efficiency characteristics of uncorrected vehicles could be somewhat better compared to vehicles undergoing the recall repair. At this stage it is just too early to know what all will be involved with the corrective measures administered and how this will affect engine performance and miles-per-gallon ratings – in other words, it is not yet known if any kind of fix can address all three issues (engine performance, fuel efficiency and exhaust-produced NOx emissions that also meet spec.) simultaneously. This might just be a tough nut to crack.

Now assuming all three issues can be adequately and satisfactorily resolved and presumed at company expense, once again, for all affected vehicle owners, will they willingly participate in the recall effort once initiated? This could take up to a year or more to fully work out the particulars.

Which begs the question: how will sales of all brands of diesel-motor vehicles be impacted going forward?

The sooner this problem can be resolved and, again, adequately and to the satisfaction of all affected motor vehicle owners, the better.

Interesting it will be to see how this plays out.

More on this matter can be found here.

– Alan Kandel