The VW “Fix” Just Got a Lot More Expensive

Better hide your diesel VW.

Turns out that some of the “affected” models will require more than just a quick, easy (and free) software adjustment to placate Uncle.

Actually, it is most of them.

Of the 482,000 diesel-engined VWs identified (so far) for the High Crime of end-running Uncle, 325,000 of them may require physical alterations; that is re-engineering of their hardware. Specifically, they will probably have to be retrofitted with urea injection – a “feature” VW diesels up through the 2014 model year uniquely lacked – and which was probably among the reasons why people chose to buy a VW diesel. Against the State: An ... Rockwell Jr., Llewelly... Best Price: $5.02 Buy New $5.52 (as of 11:35 EST - Details)

More on that in a moment.

Urea injection is a chemical (catalytic) exhaust treatment that sprays a fluid – urea – into the exhaust stream. This alters the composition of the resultant gasses issuing from the tailpipe, making Uncle happy. It has become unavoidable to have this system, in order to placate Uncle. Every diesel-powered passenger car sold in the U.S. now has it – including all new VW diesels.

But it requires a secondary tank (in addition to the fuel tank)  to store the urea – a couple gallons of the stuff, typically – and all the plumbing to get the urea into the exhaust. Plus the electronics to control the operation.

A retrofit will therefore entail costly physical as well as software modifications to the vehicle.

Probably a couple thousand dollars’ worth of parts and labor for each “affected” car. Holes will need to be drilled, cuts made in the car’s sheetmetal, to accommodate the urea tank, the filler neck and so on. The exhaust system will have to be altered, perhaps wholly or partially replaced.

It will also be necessary for the car’s owners to buy urea – commonly marketed as AdBlue or just Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) for the life of the car. VW will probably have to subsidize this for as long as each car remains in service – even if that’s for the next 30 years – as the people who bought the cars arguably did so at least in part because they thought they were buying a car that did not require periodic urea refills.


You can see that is serious – and seriously expensive – business.

When the owners of the “affected” vehicles find out, they may revolt. May demand that VW simply buy their cars back, at full sticker – plus something extra for the hassle.

Which they are likely to get. 

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