VW boss comes clean: ‘We did program our cars to detect rolling roads’

Volkswagen's pain shows no signs of easing

VW Golf emissions scandalVOLKSWAGEN has admitted that it cheated in European emission tests by programming its diesel cars to adjust engine settings when they sensed that they were on a rolling road. Until now VW had disclosed only that its European cars had “irregularities”. The admission, from Herbert Diess, the head of VW cars, came during a chaotic interview at the the Tokyo motor show.

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As The Sunday Times asked what the effect of the “defeat device” was, officials tried to bring the questioning to an end, insisting that Diess “isn’t going to talk about software all day”. He responded, however, saying: “It’s basically the same thing [as in America]. The software is detecting whether the car is on the rolling road or if it’s not on the rolling road, and depending on that, the mapping on the car is different.”

Diess played down the effect of the cheating, saying: “The emissions of the cars, if you compare those cars we have to fix to many of our competitors’ cars, they are very similar emissions-wise. They are not worse emissions-wise. It is important to know.”

He did not explain why, if its cars were no more polluting than rivals, the company had fitted the defeat devices. There has been speculation in the past that in devising software to help pass emissions tests in America and Europe, VW was doing no more than what it believed was standard practice across the industry.

The revelation comes as the scale of the damage done to VW’s reputation by the scandal becomes clear. Last week figures showed that VW’s sales were down 3.7% in the three months to September compared with the same period last year and the company had recorded its first quarterly loss for at least 15 years.

“We have strong sales still in Germany,” VW said. “We have a little reduction in the UK and in some of the southern European countries.”