Are the Germans Preventing the Floodgates from Opening?
Was the Volkswagen diesel cheating scandal enough to scare the rest of the German automakers? It seems that is certainly the case. In recent news Mercedes, Audi, Opel, Volkswagen and Porsche all have announced a recall that will affect 630,000 vehicles that are being brought in specifically to address their emissions management software. This is certainly a reaction to the scandal that was discovered by Volkswagen that had been using cheat devices to ensure their vehicles would pass the EPA standards in the US when the vehicles were being tested, which has caused a sense of alarm for the other German automakers.
While no other automaker has been found to be as blatantly skirting the rules as Volkswagen was, all those named have some form of software or protective devices that shut down the emissions control systems when a car is in specific conditions. As far as we can tell there is a loophole that legally allows for this system to be reduced or shut off during these conditions to help protect the engines, but what is being found is these systems are being shut off or reduced at times that are unnecessary. Because of this the German regulators are requiring this recall of the vehicles from these manufacturers to ensure vehicles are more strictly adhering to EPA standards.
Using this recall will help to tighten the loophole and reduce the pollution levels, which is good on both sides. While none of these automakers were intentionally defeating the system, except Volkswagen, the loophole that will be reduced will ensure more complete compliance with the regulations put in place to ensure vehicles are going to be able to pass emissions regulations and another $16 billion plus settlement is not needed by a German company when it comes to the US regulations.
Mercedes-Benz is already one company that has launched its own internal investigation into the diesel emissions put out by their engines. We have learned in recent months these engines all but turn off the emissions control system when the ambient temperature is below fifty degrees, which leads to a greater amount of pollutants in the air. This is expected to be repaired and is not part of the loophole the German regulators are looking into, but is an entirely separate measure that needs to be brought under control before we have a second scandal on our hands.
Is this response to Volkswagen the right way for German automakers to move forward? By tightening their own regulations and ensuring their vehicles adhere to the EPA standards they can gain back some of the confidence that was lost during the Volkswagen scandal. The money that has to be paid by Volkswagen has a small effect on the German economy, but if every automaker in Germany had to pay similar amounts for the same problems the result would be catastrophic for the automotive industry in Germany. Because of this, tightening the loophole and recalling this number of vehicles makes perfect sense to help the country move forward, confident in their diesel engines.