Software designed to help Volkswagen vehicles pass emission tests in the USA has reportedly also been used to cheat in Europe, German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung has revealed.
The newspaper said the car maker admitted the so-called defeat device, installed in 11 million vehicles worldwide, is capable of recognising the New European Driving Cycle, in use since 1997 to assess emission levels of car engines and fuel economy in passenger cars.
Although the German Ministry of Transport hinted previously the software has been in use in Europe, there was no official confirmation of that fact. It was generally believed the software was primarily designed to enable cars equipped with Volkswagen’s EA 189 diesel engines to meet stringent nitrogen oxide emission limits in the USA.
However, according to Sueddeutsche Zeitung, the affected cars wouldn’t be able to meet the Euro 5 emission norm without the cheating software.
“The system [in European diesel cars] is maybe even more intelligent than the simple shutdown mechanism in the USA,” Sueddeutsche Zeitung said. “Instead of once programmed and single-purpose software, in case of the European diesel models new operation programs were constantly packed into motor electronics with the goal of adjusting combustion control and exhaust gas circulation specifically for every model.”
The defeat device in the US was used to detect when the car was being tested and switch on emission mitigation technologies, which, if used constantly, would negatively affect fuel consumption and performance of the vehicles.
Eight million cars with the cheating software have been sold in Europe, including some of the most popular models manufactured by the Volkswagen group such as Volkswagen’s own flagship Passat, Skoda's Octavia and Audi's A4.
The emission rigging, revealed by the US Environmental Protection Agency on 18 September has triggered the biggest crisis in Volkswagen’s 78-year history, wiping out more than a third of the value of its shares and forcing the firm’s long-serving CEO Martin Winterkorn to resign.