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Volkswagen Says 11 Million Cars Worldwide Have Emissions Cheating Software


Our next story is about disappointment, deception and Volkswagen. The German carmaker has admitted it tweaked software to falsify emissions from diesel vehicles, not just in the U.S., but in markets around the world. Eleven million cars are now said to be affected. Here's NPR's Sonari Glinton.

SONARI GLINTON, BYLINE: On Volkswagen's website, the company advertises the power and fuel economy of clean diesel. And we talked a lot of consumers who bought into that idea.

BORIS TUCHNER: I just feel deeply disappointed, and it leaves me just with a level of - I just don't like to be deceived.

DAVID MCKINLEY: I've been a fan of their engineering over the years, but this is a bridge too far for me.

LISA INGARDIA: They have admitted, yes, we purposely misled you, and that's a pretty big deal.

GLINTON: Those were VW customers Boris Tuchner in Wisconsin, David McKinley in Dartmouth, Mass., and Lisa Ingardia in Atlanta. It's not just consumers who are feeling the disappointment. Jake Fisher is the head of auto testing at Consumer Reports. Until this revelation, Consumer Reports has for many years recommended several diesel models.

JAKE FISHER: We want to make it very clear that we do not recommend you buy those cars because really there's no telling when they're not cheating.

GLINTON: Fisher says the other problems with automakers were all about defects or errors. Fisher says this is different.

FISHER: It's not a mistake. It really was a situation where they knew what they were doing and they were just kind of avoiding - they were cheating. I mean, there's no other way of putting it.

GLINTON: The cheat was that VW was installing software that turned off the emissions controls when diesel cars were on the road and turned them on when they were being tested, essentially negating the clean part of clean diesel. Jack Nerad with Kelley Blue Book says this particular cheat is uncharacteristic of Volkswagen, which has a pretty good reputation in the industry.

JACK NERAD: People look at Volkswagen as being a brand that has played by the rules, does things the right way and I think because of that - I mean, this takes a lot of people by surprise.

GLINTON: Nerad says part of the problem was that VW saw diesel as the key to reopening the U.S. market. The company is by far the leader on the diesel technology front.

NERAD: It would have been very, very difficult for Volkswagen to go forward to make any progress. And it has hoped to make big progress in the North American market, without diesel vehicles in the marketplace and, you know, inexpensive diesels in the marketplace.

GLINTON: Diesel engines are fuel efficient. They're reliable and have a lot to offer, especially those who drive long distances. John German is a fan of diesel. He's with the International Council on Clean Transportation, the group who brought the discrepancy to the attention of the EPA by doing its own independent test.

JOHN GERMAN: There's always been cases like this. This is not the first time a manufacturer has installed a defeat device in their vehicles. It's not the first time they've been caught. Our concern really was to make sure the agencies do their job and to make sure that these things don't happen in the future.

GLINTON: And do you think we'll see this in other carmakers?

GERMAN: We have no knowledge that any other manufacturer is doing this, but we do think that the question needs to be asked and it needs to be investigated.

GLINTON: The one thing we know Volkswagen won't have a shortage of - investigations. There'll be plenty. Sonari Glinton, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sonari Glinton is a NPR Business Desk Correspondent based at our NPR West bureau. He covers the auto industry, consumer goods, and consumer behavior, as well as marketing and advertising for NPR and Planet Money.