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Car and Driver: Volvo Exec: VW Diesel Emissions Cheating Was an “Open Secret” for Years


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-Were you surprised by Volkswagen’s admission nearly a year ago that it used a software defeat device to fake its way through global diesel emissions standards? Competing automakers weren’t—according to a Volvo executive, Volkswagen’s cheat was an “open secret” in the auto industry for the past seven years. It’s just that none of the competition could figure out exactly what VW was doing.


At a Volvo launch event in Spain, Kent Falck, a future product specialist with nearly 30 years of experience at Volvo, remarked that automakers had suspected something was up with VW’s TDI emissions results for years, News.com.au reports. As Falck puts it, competing automakers were perplexed when they couldn’t get their diesel offerings to run as cleanly as Volkswagen claimed—despite using the same equipment from the same auto industry suppliers.


“We have the same suppliers, we have Bosch, we have Denso, we are working with the same partners, so we know this technology doesn’t exist,” Falck told a small group of Australian journalists. “I have known that for seven years.”


“We sat in a room and reviewed all the facts, figures, whatever we have, with the specialists,” said Mr Falck. “[W]e can’t manage it, how are the others doing it? We don’t know.”


Falck says that at one point, he and his colleagues thought perhaps Volkswagen had invented or licensed some proprietary technology that allowed its diesel vehicles to pass U.S. and European emissions tests without relying on expensive and complex systems like urea injection, used by nearly every competing automaker. “There is always intellectual properties in the world … there might be something out there in the technology … that we are not allowed to buy because it’s owned by a supplier,” he said. “We were wondering how [VW met strict US emissions targets] that’s for sure.”


Of course, now we know exactly how Volkswagen got away with it: The automaker used sophisticated software that could detect when a vehicle was being emissions-tested, and only activated the full suite of emissions controls under testing conditions. It’s a gamble that will end up costing the automaker royally—to the tune of $14.7 billion in the U.S. alone. And Volkswagen’s admission has increased the scrutiny on all automakers, with evidence mounting that many major automakers were engaging in similar deception.


Still, we can’t help but think the auto industry should implement an ethics rule modeled after the Department of Homeland Security’s public safety campaign: If you see something suspicious, say something—to regulators.


This story originally appeared on Road & Track h/t Joshua Dowling.


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