Volkswagen pollution scandal and the German government

This video from the USA says about itself:

How Do Car Companies Cheat Emissions Tests?

7 October 2015

Recently Volkswagen was caught cheating on tests for their diesel cars. How did they do it and how much did it impact U.S. air quality?

A video from Germany which used to be on YouTube used to say about itself:

VW scandal exposes cozy ties between industry and Berlin

26 September 2015

Angela Merkel learned early in her political career that taking on the German car industry carries risks.

It was the spring of 1995 and the newly appointed environment minister was trying to convince her cabinet colleagues to back a bold new set of anti-smog rules that included tougher speed limits and summer driving bans.

But Matthias Wissmann, the transport minister with close ties to industry, was having none of it. He questioned whether Merkel’s measures would cut pollution levels at all and vowed to fight any attempt to impose speed limits on the Autobahn.

Wissmann’s argument won the day, reducing Merkel to tears, according to a 2010 biography by Gerd Langguth. For the ambitious young minister from the communist East it was a lesson about how politics worked in a united Germany.

Much has changed in the intervening years. Merkel is now in her third term as chancellor. Wissmann heads the Verband der Automobilindustrie (VDA), the influential lobby group for German automakers.

But there is one constant: the clout of the auto industry in German politics.

This relationship, which some describe as symbiotic, bordering on incestuous, is in the spotlight now, as Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE), the country’s largest carmaker, reels from an emissions scandal that has forced out its long-time CEO Martin Winterkorn and sent its stock careening lower.

There are no indications that German politicians were aware that VW was rigging its diesel emissions tests. Merkel and her leading ministers have expressed surprise and indignation at the revelations, urging VW to clear them up swiftly.

But authorities in Germany and elsewhere in Europe had known for years about the widening gap between emissions values measured in official laboratory tests and those recorded in a real-world environment.

Yet, critics say, Berlin fought hard to shield its carmakers from closer scrutiny and, in a high-profile clash with its European partners two years ago, from tougher emissions targets. Merkel has defended the stance as necessary in order to protect jobs in the sector.

Some see the VW scandal as symptomatic of a deeper problem in which German car companies have been allowed to do as they please without oversight or fear of reprisals from Berlin.

“The Volkswagen scandal is a warning shot to the politicians,” said Christina Deckwirth of Berlin-based Lobby Control. “It shows they need to spend less time protecting the auto industry and more time overseeing it.”

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Volkswagen emissions scandal: VW ‘was warned four years ago’ its emissions test software was illegal

Angela Merkel’s coalition stands accused of being ‘in bed’ with the German car industry

Tony Paterson, Berlin

Sunday 27 September 2015 18:19 BST

The global car giant Volkswagen was warned at least four years ago that the computer software at the heart of its diesel emissions scandal was illegal, but the company failed to act on the information and continued to use it, according to German media reports.

VW admitted a week ago that emissions tests it was conducting on its diesel vehicles sold in the United States were manipulated, after the practice was uncovered by US environmental authorities.

The company has since revealed that up to 11 million vehicles worldwide are likely to be fitted with the affected software. The scandal forced the resignation of VW boss Martin Winterkorn last week.

However, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung disclosed yesterday that one of VW’s own technicians had warned his senior management as early as 2011 that the computer software used to manipulate diesel emissions tests was potentially illegal.

The software senses when the car has been set up for emissions testing and then produces much lower levels of nitrogen oxides in the exhaust emissions than it would give off during normal road use. The paper said the technician’s warning was mentioned at the time in an internal company document that the VW board examined last Friday. A VW spokesman refused to confirm the claim. “We are investigating at all levels and we will supply the results as soon as we have them,” he told the newspaper.

Other reports suggested that VW was informed that the software was illegal as early as 2007. The Bild am Sonntag newspaper said that Bosch, the car component specialist which developed the software, had written to VW in that year warning that it should be used for test purposes only.

Bild said that, like the reported technician’s warning, the Bosch letter had turned up in an internal VW company report that the board examined last week. It said Bosch had told VW that its plans for the software were “illegal”.

According to German media reports, the US Environmental Protection Agency informed VW about its manipulated diesel testing in the spring of 2014. However, VW was said to have responded by claiming that the problem was a minor issue which required only “re-calibration” of vehicle software to rectify it.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government has launched a commission of inquiry in an attempt limit the damage the scandal has inflicted on the global reputation of the “Made in Germany” brand. But her coalition also stands accused of being “in bed” with the German car industry and failing to enforce European Union regulations banning the kind of manipulative software used by VW.

Yesterday, the Die Welt newspaper said that it had gained access to an internal German government paper which showed that Ms Merkel’s coalition planned to try to delay EU plans to introduce tough new vehicle emissions tests by at least three years. The EU aims to have the new tests enforced by the end of 2017, but Die Welt said the German government would aim to get their introduction postponed until 2021 and retain as many loopholes as possible.

The German plan was criticised by the Dutch Green MEP Bas Eickhout. “Germany is always in front when it comes to environmental protection – unless the car industry is affected,” he said.

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