The VW Emissions Scandal Heats Up

The Volkswagen emissions scandal is one of the most prevalent automotive crimes in our nation’s history. As the German automaker comes to terms with its wrongdoing, the world is closely monitoring the situation as it plays out right in front of our eyes. The executive board for VW was noticeably (and purposely) absent from the North American International Auto Show this week, despite the fact that the auto brand had plenty of new models and technology to debut at the Detroit-based expo. Despite how you feel about a local dealership like Kings Volkswagen vs – a virtual approach to car buying – it’s hard to deny the impact that this global scandal will have on the future success of the VW brand.

In Case You Missed It: The Diesel Scandal Explained

For those who read headlines without actually clicking to read the full article, here is a recap of what the Volkswagen emissions scandal is, its timeline, and what is happening present day.


  • The Issue: When an automotive manufacturer builds a new car, or releases a new model year of an already-established nameplate, it is responsible for passing emissions regulations before the models can be sold for public use. In the United States, these emissions regulations are stricter than they are in other countries around the world, a fact that Volkswagen was well aware of. The United States Environmental Protection Agency, or the EPA, discovered back in 2014 that Volkswagen models powered by diesel engines were emitting 40 times more toxic fumes than permitted by law. You may be wondering how the EPA granted permission for these cars to make their way onto public roadways, right? The short and simple answer is that VW cheated the emissions testing so that its vehicles would appear more environmentally friendly. The German automaker got away with cheating for quite some time, but after eleven million affected cars were sold across the globe, the deception was finally discovered. For those of you who enjoy numbers, look at it this way: If all of the VW diesel models sold were compliant with the EPA standards, those 11 million cars would be responsible for emitting between 10,000 and 42,000 tons of NOx toxic fumes each year. Unfortunately, VW’s diesel vehicles did not comply, and instead released between 235,000 and 950,000 tons of NOx emissions each year.
  • What It Means: Aside from the implications that the German automaker is now facing, this diesel emissions scandal means that more harmful toxic fumes were released into the earth’s atmosphere over the past few years than there should have been. The ultimate results from this negative and irresponsible move by VW may not be known for several years – if at all. The only thing we can say for certain, is that all of the extra toxins that were unknowingly pumped into the air we breathe will not have a positive effect on our environment.
  • How it Happened: We mentioned earlier that Volkswagen cheated on diesel emissions tests, but you are probably still wondering how. How in the world could an automotive manufacturer get around stringent government tests and regulations over and over again? The answer is in a computer code that was purposely programmed into VW models, known as the “Defeat Device.” This software was designed to detect when it was under testing conditions, and activate in order to deliver passable emissions results.
  • How They Got Caught: The International Council on Clean Transportation took it upon itself to perform independent tests on diesel vehicles in the United States. The Passat, Jetta, and BMW X5 were all tested in conjunction with one another, and it became obvious that the Volkswagen models were performing much worse than expected. After these initial findings, the ICCT implemented further testing in standard testing environments, which the same VW models performed very well in. The discrepancy was finally found out, the red flags were raised, and the independent organization contacted the EPA with its findings.
  • The Lies Continue: When Volkswagen was first questioned in regards to this perceived scandal, VW’s head of regulatory compliance in the U.S. denied any wrongdoing. Oliver Schmidt immediately met with U.S. regulators after the emissions cheat was uncovered, and denied any wrongdoing or knowledge of the cheat. He stepped down from his position, and was arrested in early January for his willing participation in the scandal.
  • Things Continue to Heat Up: It has been more than a year since the VW Diesel Emissions Scandal broke, and recent arrests of high-level VW executives by the FBI suggest that the problems for the company are just getting started. The automaker is currently paying over $11 billion in fines for the fraud, but these individual arrests by the FBI are another matter entirely. The affidavit by the FBI said that investigators believed Schmidt and other VW employees, “Conspired and unlawfully agreed” to defraud the United States government by interfering with emissions enforcement, and committing violations against the Clean Air Act.
  • Who it Affects: Aside from the executives that will more than likely be charged with federal crimes and spend some time behind bars, the VW diesel emissions scandal affects nearly every person in the United States. Between breathing more toxic fumes, and increasing the effects of global warming, it seems that we will all end up paying for VW’s decision to cheat emissions testing, in more ways than one.


As Volkswagen tries to move forward with remedying its reputation here in the United States, it appears that negative global attention is outshining VW’s presence at this year’s North American International Auto Show. The brand has debuted several new production models, concepts, and future technology in Detroit this week, but it can’t seem to get the word out over these resounding legal woes.

The main question for Volkswagen remains – will the public forgive VW’s sins, or will the German automaker fizzle out of business after taking such a hard public relations hit? Much like the effects of the toxic fumes released by VW cars, we likely won’t have an answer to how this will impact the future of Volkswagen until more time passes by. For now, we will simply wait and see.