During a press conference Wednesday, officials from the Department of Justice issued indictments for six VW employees, including the former head of engine development at the automaker who was suspended in 2015 following VW's own investigation into the matter.
In announcing the charges against the six individuals, which included conspiracy and wire fraud, the DOJ also leveled the charge of obstruction of justice in alleging that VW employees had destroyed documents detailing the emissions-cheating software.
The DOJ painted a 10-year timeline leading up to the EPA's announcement that Volkswagen had used emissions-cheating software, an effort that was prompted by engineers' inability to meet emissions targets set by the company. The "clean diesel" campaign kicked off around 2006, when the automaker decided to make a push for diesel tech in the U.S. in an effort to replicate the wide use of diesel engines in Europe, where TDI engines had brought the company success.
"This new engine would be the cornerstone of a new project to sell diesel vehicles in the United States that would be marketed to buyers as 'clean diesel,' a project that was an important strategic goal for VW’s management," the DOJ detailed in a statement this week. "When the co-conspirators realized that they could not design a diesel engine that would both meet the stricter NOx emissions standards and attract sufficient customer demand in the U.S. market, they decided they would use a software function to cheat standard U.S. emissions tests."
The DOJ also painted a partial picture of how company engineers allegedly came up with a software solution designed to allow vehicles to pass emissions tests.
"VW engineers working under (Richard) Dorenkamp and (Jens) Hadler designed and implemented a software to recognize whether a vehicle was undergoing standard U.S. emissions testing on a dynamometer or it was being driven on the road under normal driving conditions," the DOJ said in a statement. "The software accomplished this by recognizing the standard published drive cycles. Based on these inputs, if the vehicle’s software detected that it was being tested, the vehicle performed in one mode, which satisfied U.S. NOx emissions standards. If the software detected that the vehicle was not being tested, it operated in a different mode, in which the vehicle’s emissions control systems were reduced substantially, causing the vehicle to emit NOx up to 40 times higher than U.S. standards."
The prosecutors also described how engine development chiefs Dorenkamp and Hadler made the decision to use the software, with Hadler giving the go-ahead for its introduction into 2009 model-year vehicles sold in the U.S.
Curiously, the software is believed to have increased strain on the engines, which led to hardware failures. The DOJ claims the engineers obtained the permission of former engine development chief Heinz-Jakob Neusser and quality management chief Bernd Gottweis to alter the operation of the software, allowing the cars to start in "street mode" and then switch to "dyno mode," which fully activated the proper emissions equipment. The DOJ asserts that prior to this change, hardware failures occurred due to cars running in dyno mode for too long and that the change was made through software updates at dealerships.
Following West Virginia University’s Center for Alternative Fuels' discovery of emissions discrepancies, VW employees cooperated with the EPA in tracking down the cause of the discrepancies, but according to the DOJ, they misled the EPA in the process.
"In implementing their strategy of disclosing as little as possible, Neusser, Gottweis, Schmidt, Peter and their co-conspirators provided EPA and CARB with testing results, data, presentations and statements in an attempt to make it appear that there were innocent mechanical and technological problems to blame, while secretly knowing that the primary reason for the discrepancy was their cheating software that was installed in every VW diesel vehicle sold in the United States," the DOJ states. "The co-conspirators continued this back and forth with the EPA and CARB for over 18 months, obstructing the regulators’ attempts to uncover the truth."
The answers VW gave to the EPA also reportedly included a script for engineers to use when questioned about the matter. The effort largely worked until one employee admitted to the EPA that cars were designed to behave differently when they detected they were being tested for emissions.
Following this admission, VW employees reportedly began to destroy documents and hard drives related to the emissions-cheating effort.
The timeline that the DOJ published in announcing the indictments shed light on some of the decision-making that took place at VW in relation to the emissions-cheating software, ultimately citing marketing goals and unrealized engineering targets as the motivation for the creation of the software. The DOJ timeline also expounded on the various levels of involvement of the six indicted VW executives and engineers.
Read more: http://autoweek.com/article/vw-diesel-scandal/doj-claims-vw-destroyed-records-diesel-crisis-unfolded#ixzz4VfWrD6kF
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