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Volkswagen’s Diesel Fix Actually Makes Emissions Worse, Consumer Group Claims

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A software fix designed to bring sidelined 2.0-liter diesel Volkswagen models into compliance just made the vehicle dirtier, a European consumer group claims.

According to Reuters, the Italian consumer group Altroconsumo tested an Audi Q5 that underwent Volkswagen’s technical fix, only to find that nitrous oxide emissions were 25 percent higher than before.

The Q5, like the bulk of the 11 million recalled 2009–2015 TDI models, was equipped with the EA189 Euro 5 engine. Volkswagen’s European fix for that engine relies on software only, while the Euro-market 1.6-liter TDI requires a piece of mesh to regulate air flow as well as the software fix.

European Union emissions regulations aren’t as strict as those mandated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, but they aren’t lax, either. Several million of the recalled vehicles are being called back to dealers for an approved fix. In response to the test, the European Consumer Organization (BEUC) issued a statement calling the fix “a fudge.”

“This is another blow for EU consumers and a new dimension of the VW scandal,” stated Monique Goyens, general director of the BEUC. “This test by our Italian member clearly demonstrates that VW’s solution to deactivate the defeat device is not reliable.”

She went on to criticize the company for not offering European owners any compensation for its scandal. Stricter emissions laws in the U.S. meant a pricey mechanical fix was required to bring the EA189 engine into compliance. The company agreed to a buyback and compensation program amounting to more than $15 billion.

“Volkswagen justifies compensation payments to US consumers with the argument that their cars cannot be as easily fixed as in Europe,” Goyens stated. “This excuse now seems to be built on sand. VW must compensate European consumers. This is the only possible way forward for VW to make up for this ongoing consumer detriment.”

The EPA has yet to agree to a preferred fix for U.S. owners who want to keep their vehicles on the road. According to the settlement, 85 percent of affected vehicles must be bought back or repaired by June 2019 or the automaker will face penalties of $100 million for every percentage point below that number. In total, 475,000 2.0-liter VW and Audi TDI models are affected by the settlement.

The 2015 model year brought a new 2.0-liter TDI engine — the extensively revamped EA288. That mill is outfitted with an AdBlue urea injection system designed to scrub NOX from the vehicle’s exhaust, making it arguably easier to bring into compliance.

(This story has been corrected. It originally stated that the recall rate for the fix option must meet 85 percent of the vehicles not bought back by the manufacturer. That is incorrect, and the copy has been updated.)

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