New Delhi: German automaker Volkswagen AG used a derivative of its infamous defeat device in cars sold in India to get around the need to meet emission norms, a top official at India’s premier vehicle testing agency said.
A little over 300,000 cars sold in India are likely to have used this device—a piece of software that allows cars to pass emission control tests by showing much lower levels of pollution during the tests than when they are in actual use.
The company is now in the process of recalling the cars to change this software.
“There was a software, which they themselves have said that they would like to change, in India. It was a global disclosure. So, Indian models will also undergo the change," Rashmi Urdhwareshe, director of the Pune-based Automotive Research Authority of India (Arai), said in an interview.
ALSO READ | The Volkswagen story: What it means for India
This software is a “derivative of the original software" or defeat device used in the US because it had to deal with “India-specific emission regulations", she added.
Arai is a collaboration between the automotive industry and the ministry of heavy industries and public enterprises.
The Mumbai-based Indian unit of Volkswagen has said that about 323,700 Volkswagen, Skoda and Audi cars in India manufactured by the group are equipped with the EA 189 family of diesel engines, which are in question globally. Mint first reported this in December 2015.
The company has consistently denied using a defeat device in India, although this claim was first made last year by Union minister for heavy industry Anant Geete, based on Arai’s investigation. A Volkswagen group spokesperson had not responded to an email seeking comment at the time of going to press.
Globally, cars powered by these engines have the defeat device. In the US, it was found that emission levels of Volkswagen diesel cars were 40 times above permissible levels.
Following Arai’s investigation, Volkswagen has asked the agency to authorize the replacement of the software.
“They have asked us to authorize their vehicles... model by model they are submitting and we are approving them with due validation and verification. Many of the models have been authorized. They have announced the recall on those models," said Urdhwareshe.
ALSO READ | Lessons from the Volkswagen emissions scandal
“In another month’s time, the entire process should be over," she added.
Arai has found the device in almost all VW group models, including Volkswagen, Audi and Skoda cars “wherever EA 189 engines are used", according to Urdhwareshe.
From 2008 to the end of November 2015, around 198,500 cars from Volkswagen, 88,700 cars from Skoda and 36,500 cars from Audi sold in India were equipped with the EA 189 engine series, which included 1.2-litre, 1.5-litre, 1.6-litre and 2.0-litre diesel engine variants.
In order to prevent such incidents, Urdhwareshe said that India will have to start testing emissions in actual driving conditions.
Volkswagen’s use of a defeat device in India is “not a product failure but a clear case of cheating", said S.P. Singh, president of the Indian Foundation of Transport, Research and Training.
ALSO READ | On-road emission tests to be mandatory in India from 2020
He added that the government is “duty-bound" to ask the Central Bureau of Investigation to institute a probe.
Volkswagen’s supervisory board is set to sign off on a $4.3 billion settlement of US criminal and civil penalties for rigging diesel-powered cars to cheat on emissions tests, Bloomberg reported. The agreement with the US department of justice and customs authorities will include a guilty plea, Volkswagen said on Tuesday. The board was to meet on Wednesday to review the agreement.