Remember the emissions-cheating diesel scandal at VW? Turns out that the fix is itself a cheat.

Uh oh.

Let’s start off by pointing out that not everything Volkswagen does is bad. Namely, while their EV production targets are still significantly lower than Tesla’s, of the “traditional automakers”, they have the most ambitious electrification programme. And that’s something to be commended.

Indeed, when the other day VW’s head of diesel development claimed that diesel is “absolutely clean” now (leading to a lot of hilarious and angry responses), I was willing to just give that a pass as a lazy marketing effort, thanks to their big electrification push.

But the news recently is very much a bad thing.

To sum up:

  • Numerous automakers had previously been caught using a cheat device to detect when its vehicles were being tested for emissions. This would engage a “clean” mode for the tests, which it would otherwise disable so that the engines had more power and longevity.  This is the core of #Dieselgate.
  • After being caught (and heavily fined), automakers were required to come up for fixes to their software to make the cars actually be cleaner… at the cost of worse-performing cars.
  • A case in Düsseldorf district court has recently returned a verdict concerning the fix, as present in the VW Tiguan diesel with the engine EA 189.  They discovered that the “fix” VW provided for this vehicle — and presumably, many others as well (including at Audi, Seat and Skoda) — is only operational between 10-32°C (50-90°F).
  • Half the days in Germany are outside this temperature range.  As a consequence, the fix is shut off half the time
  • Emissions testing, however, is done within this range, so the vehicles will pass their emissions tests.
  • The court found that this constitutes an illegal defeat device and VW is legally liable for it.

This is a whole new can of worms for VW that has just been opened.  Even worse, it undercuts VW’s #Dieselgate legal strategy. They’ve been trying to argue that most potential plaintiffs have passed their statute of limitations, and thus cannot sue.  But since this constitutes a new violation, plaintiffs would be able to sue over it.

#Dieselgate is turning out to be the gift that just keeps on taking.

View from Tlanepantla of Mexico City blanketed by smog on March 18, 2016. Mexican officials lifted a four-day air pollution alert in the nation's densely-populated capital after ozone levels dropped, according to them, to acceptable levels. Mexico City authorities issued the first air pollution alert in 14 years due to high ozone levels, restricting traffic, encouraging children to stay indoors and ordering factories to cut emissions. AFP PHOTO / RONALDO SCHEMIDT / AFP / RONALDO SCHEMIDT        (Photo credit should read RONALDO SCHEMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)