It takes a lot for a major car company or engine manufacturer to deliberately circumvent a regulatory fatwa. As policy. Not a “rogue engineer.” The entire engineering department; the upstairs bosses… everyone in on it.
It is happening a lot lately.
VW – and now Cummins, a major manufacturer of diesel engines used in heavy commercial and street vehicles, including Chrysler (and lately, Nissan) pick-up trucks. Both have been caught (apparently, in the case of Cummins, which hasn’t yet admitted to it) diddling with their engines’ software – which controls the hardware – in order to “cheat” the EPA’s emissions tests.
It is an act of desperation on the order of the Ardennes Offensive in the winter of ’44 – with VW (and Cummins) in the role of the Germans. It’s an all or nothing throw of the dice.
Billions in potential losses; potentially, the loss of the company itself.
It is no joke.
VW is probably doomed, having been caught – and now facing financial repercussions the equivalent of a mile-high tsunami. Not to mention the PR debacle.
Because we have reached a regulatory bottleneck. A point not merely of diminishing returns (that was reached at least a decade ago) as far as the cost imposed on the gains achieved, but a point of engineering (or economic) can’t-go-there. The EPA is basically demanding zero-emissions internal combustion, which is not possible without eliminating combustion.
And even getting close to “zero emissions” (which is literally what EPA expects) can only be done at great cost and not just in terms of the MSRP.
You may have noticed that modern diesel engines are not spectacularly fuel-efficient. This notwithstanding all the new technologies. It is so because the fuel has been jiggered with to be Ultra Low Sulfur (ULS) and because the engines have been jiggered with (particulate traps, urea injection, “regeneration” and other such add-ons).
A few years ago, there was a scramble among over-the-road truckers to snatch up the remaining inventory of big rigs powered by diesel engines built before the latest/newest EPA fatwas as applied to big rigs – which made the new, EPA-acceptable ones much more expensive to buy and much less efficient to operate.
Freight hauling got more expensive and so did our groceries and everything else.
Then EPA then turned its evil eyes toward passenger car diesels.
There is a reason why the only EPA-acceptable diesels you can still buy in this country are without exception installed in high-dollar cars built by luxury-brand marques like Mercedes and BMW. It is because the cost of compliance doesn’t matter as much to people who spend $50,000 or more to buy a new car.
A car like the 2017 Mercedes-Benz E-class diesel (base price $52,650) is a fantastic car but it’s not an economical car. The price of the car negates the “savings” realized from its 28 city/42 highway EPA rating.
Which by the way would be higher were it not for the EPA-mandatory Ultra Low Sulfur fuel and all the gear Benz and everyone else is forced to graft on to their diesel engines in order to pass the EPA’s emissions tests and not run afoul of the EPA’s Ayatollahs.
VW (and, apparently, Cummins) decided to diddle. A very dangerous thing when dealing with Ayatollahs.
They did so because they can’t charge Mercedes prices for EPA-compliant diesels. It was either diddle – or (as they say in the Marines) drop on request.
Get out of the market entirely.