Volkswagen Cheating Scandal Forces EPA to Toughen Regulations

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Automotive Editor

Armaan Almeida was an Automotive Editor who produced buying guides and sneak previews, in addition to publishing daily news stories and tracking monthly deals, incentives and pricing trends from Toyota, Nissan and Lexus.

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, Automotive Editor - September 28, 2015

Agency vows to adapt, evolve and improve testing while putting all manufacturers on notice.

In the wake of the largest emissions scandal to ever hit the auto industry, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is vowing to crack down on automakers who mislead and under-report their emissions numbers. The agency has gone on record as saying that it will add more spot-checks to vehicles that are already on the road. The development comes as no surprise, and motorists and manufacturers can all thank Volkswagen for the new oversight.

VW Diesel Scandal: What You Need to Know >>

How it All Started

Back on September 18th, 2015, the EPA alleged that Volkswagen knowingly installed software into 2.0L TDI-equipped models including the Jetta, Golf, Beetle and Passat to defeat testing procedures thereby providing inaccurate emissions numbers.

The software found in the vehicle's ECM (engine control module) would automatically detect when the vehicle was being tested, so it would automatically map out an emissions-friendly tune, thereby decreasing the amount of pollutants emitted by the vehicle. In this case, the pollutant is nitrogen oxide (NOx).

However, after the vehicle hit the road, a different tune would automatically kick in allowing the vehicle to perform as advertised. That means gobs of torque and hybrid-like fuel efficiency—the well-worn hallmarks of Volkswagen's TDI engines. The downside was that everyone was left to breath in all the additional pollution, which could lead to serious health problems such as emphysema and asthma.

If you're a current VW Jetta, Golf, Beetle or Passat TDI owner, here's what you need to know.

The Fallout

A media firestorm has subsequently erupted—and rightfully so. Lying about how much a vehicle pollutes is a serious offense that not only cheats the system, but misleads car buyers and has the potential to cause irreparable harm to innocent people breathing in the increased level of toxic pollutants.

But now other automakers have also been targeted by media outlets. First, BMW and its X3 diesel were accused of manipulating emissions by a German car magazine. The accusation was later retracted and clarified by the publication. But the damage has been done, as BMW's stock plunged 9.7-percent following the news.

Even more recently, Daimler and its notable division Mercedes-Benz, was also accused of falsifying emissions data. The accusation prompted the automaker to issue a statement denouncing the claims.

Who's next? Well, the EPA has sent a letter to all automakers informing them that emissions monitoring is being enhanced. The procedures are top-secret, and rightfully so. The news even forced Volkswagen's CEO to resign.

What It Means for Car Buyers

This means that new cars will go through a more rigorous set of tests to prove that they are as clean as they say they are. For car buyers, the move is a step in the right direction. Agencies like the EPA will hold on to test vehicles for a longer period of time to properly and accurately ensure that the vehicles are within the emission parameters set. Moreover, look for on-the-road testing to be the new norm.

Shoppers tempted by the to-good-to-be-true allure of clean diesel technology might lose out initially, since VW has been ordered to halt sales of TDI-equipped models. The canary in the coal mine is that fuel-efficient models like the diesel-powered version 2015 Chevy Cruze are still available, albeit in limited numbers.

Owners of all model vehicles might eventually have to pay more money for smog tests if more labor-intensive testing procedures are mandated.

But the bigger question looms: is this the end of diesel? Only time will tell.

Here are some additional links with more information on the VW TDI scandal:

9/18/15: Official EPA News Release >>
9/18/15: Copy of EPA Letter to Volkswagen >>
9/18/15: Copy of Air Resource Board Letter to Volkswagen >>
9/18/15: Official EPA List of Affected Volkswagen Models >>
9/25/15: Copy of EPA Letter to All Automakers >>
9/28/15: Volkswagen Diesel Information Website Launched >>
9/29/15: Chevy Colorado Diesel, GMC Canyon Diesel Scrutinized >>

, Automotive Editor

Armaan Almeida was an Automotive Editor who produced buying guides and sneak previews, in addition to publishing daily news stories and tracking monthly deals, incentives and pricing trends from Toyota, Nissan and Lexus.

Follow On: Google+ | Website

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