October 30, 2017
Federal and California regulators have begun an investigation into a second computer program in Volkswagen’s diesel cars that also affects the operation of the cars’ emission controls.
Volkswagen said that it had withdrawn 2016 models of its diesel cars from environmental certification in the United States because the company should have disclosed the software and sought regulators’ approval, but had not done so.
The disclosure of the software was made in testimony by the head of Volkswagen’s American unit, Michael Horn, before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing, and later confirmed by the Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board.
The software qualifies under state and federal laws as a so-called auxiliary emissions control device—something that modifies the performance of emissions equipment. Volkswagen and regulators declined to say whether this software was intended to defeat emissions control tests, like the software that the automaker already admitted last month that it had installed in 11 million diesel cars since the 2009 model year.
“VW did very recently provide EPA with very preliminary information on an auxiliary emissions control device that VW said was included in one or more model years,” said Nick Conger, an agency spokesperson. He added that federal and California regulators “are investigating the nature and purpose of this recently identified device.”
Volkswagen is already struggling with the spiraling cost and growing damage to its image from last month’s revelation that it had installed software to detect when a car was undergoing an emissions test and minimize harmful emissions. When not being tested, the cars would emit up to 40 times the allowable levels of pollution.
Volkswagen and regulators refrained from characterizing the second software program in any way. The automaker gave no indication of whether it was also devised to defeat emissions tests.
In addition to disclosing the second investigation in his opening testimony, Horn laid out the automaker’s plans to fix the cars currently affected and cautioned the panel that owners might have to wait a year or two.
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