“I personally am deeply sorry that we have broken the trust of our customers and the public,” Volkswagen Chief Executive Officer Martin Winterkorn said in a statement Monday, addressing the so-called “defeat device” software the automaker built into its vehicles to deceive US air pollution tests. “We will do everything necessary in order to reverse the damage this has caused.”
What led up to this mea culpa? Researchers from the International Council on Clean Transportation and West Virginia University performed all kinds of tests on VW vehicles, discovering that when the vehicles were on the road they polluted substantially more than when they were being tested for pollution emissions. Nobody could make any sense of how that could be. So the US Environmental Protection Agency threatened not to approve the automaker’s 2016 models for sale. In response, the automaker said its software was designed to hoodwink emissions tests, the EPA said.
“Only then did VW admit it had designed and installed a defeat device in these vehicles in the form of a sophisticated software algorithm that detected when a vehicle was undergoing emissions testing,” the EPA said in an action letter to VW on Friday. The EPA wants VW to recall about 500,000 vehicles dating to 2009.