Own an Audi, Seat, Skoda or Volkswagen diesel? Thinking of buying one? Here’s what you need to know about ‘dieselgate’
Volkswagen emissions are in the news. There is an investigation into whether or not Audi, Seat, Skoda and Volkswagen diesel models are far more polluting than official figures claim.
What is it about?
Officials in the United States have uncovered software in certain models of Volkswagen and Audis which is designed to beat the strict NOx particulate emissions and air quality tests used in the USA. Volkswagen’s so-called ‘defeat device’ is seen as a cheat, rather than a solution to NOx emissions.
What is the problem?
In terms of how the cars drive, there is not a problem. The issue only relates to when the car’s emissions are tested. When this happens, the car detects it is being tested and the engine switches to a different mode to artificially lower the emissions and ensure the tests are passed. Therefore, the tests are not indicative of the car’s particulate emissions in the real world.
What models are affected?
Globally, 11m cars have the software to cheat the tests fitted. In the UK, this is the breakdown of how many models from each brand are affected:
Volkswagen passenger cars – 508,276
Audi – 393,450
Seat – 76,773
Skoda – 131,569
Volkswagen commercial vehicles – 79,838
The US Volkswagens which are affected are diesel-engined models built from 2009 to date. This includes Passat, Beetle, Golf, Jetta and Audi A3s.
Volkswagen has also confirmed that five million of its cars are affected worldwide, while Audi has said that a total of 2.1 million of its cars worldwide are also involved in the scandal – with 1.42 million of those cars residing in Western Europe. Skoda has said that 1.2 million of its cars are involved in the scandal, along with 700,000 cars from Seat
Among the Audi vehicles affected are the A1, A3, A4, A5, A6, TT, Q3 and A5 model lines.
Around 4000 new cars that were on sale at UK VW, Audi, Skoda and Seat dealerships have been taken off the stock list. VW Group intends to update those cars’ engine software to remove the ‘defeat device’ and then put them back on sale, but it hasn’t given a time frame for this.
Does it affect fuel economy?
The investigation is not about emissions of CO2 and therefore fuel economy. It specifically relates to particulate emissions which affect air quality in city centres. It does not affect the fuel economy. Inaccurate or misleading official fuel economy figures are a separate issue – and a result of the European Union’s laboratory-based tests. The VW scandal appears to have prompted politicians into fresh action to revamp those tests to make them more relevant to real-world driving – but in the meantime, What Car?’s True MPG tools help you get a more honest assessment of a car’s potential economy.
If it turns out that CO2 emissions are affected, then the UK Government has reassured VW owners by saying that owners of the offending cars will not have to pay more tax as a result.
Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: “The government expects VW to support owners of these vehicles already purchased in the UK and we are playing our part by ensuring no one will end up with higher tax costs as a result of this scandal.”
Does this affect the value of my Volkswagen?
Initial reports suggest that the trade values of used Volkswagen diesels are 3% behind the rest of the market at the end of September. This will continue to be affected by how Volkswagen handles the recall.
What do I need to do?
At the moment, nothing. All that has happened so far is that issue has been identified. It does not affect the way that the cars drive, the economy or the safety of these models.
VW has announced that it will soon launch a website allowing owners to type in their car’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and see if it is affected by the ‘defeat device’ software. Dealers across all of the brands affected – VW, Audi, Skoda and Seat – will also be provided with a list of vehicles affected. Owners should get letters in the next three to four weeks asking them to bring their car in to have the software fixed. If you are concerned, the VW helpline number is 0800 333 666.
The work will be carried out free of charge – although VW has yet to make any specific comment on whether it will compensate owners for the inconvenience or the poorer resale values of their cars.
If you’ve ordered a car and it’s one of those vehicles affected by the ‘defeat device’, you will have three options – you’ll be able to cancel the order without penalty, wait until the software has been fixed and then take delivery, or take delivery as normal and then get the patch fitted later.