It just didn’t add up. The Volkswagens were spewing harmful exhaust when testers drove them on the road. In the lab, they were fine. Discrepancies in the European tests on the diesel models of the VW Passat, the VW Jetta and the BMW X5 last year gave Peter Mock an idea.
Mock, European managing director of a little-known clean-air group, suggested replicating the tests in the US.
The US has higher emissions standards than the rest of the world and a history of enforcing them, so Mock and his American counterpart, John German, were sure the US versions of the vehicles would pass the emissions tests, German said.
That way, they reasoned, they could show Europeans it was possible for diesel cars to run clean.
“We had no cause for suspicion,” German, US co-lead of the International Council on Clean Transportation, said. “We thought the vehicles would be clean.”
So began a series of events that resulted in Volkswagen admitting it built “defeat device” software into its diesel cars from 2009 to 2015 that automatically cheated on US air-pollution tests.
German and his group were actually trying to prove exactly what Volkswagen has been claiming for years: that diesel is clean.
Then German received the results of the real-world tests. “We were astounded when we saw the numbers,” he said.
On the open road, the Jetta exceeded the US nitrogen oxide emissions standard by 15 to 35 times.
The Passat was 5 to 20 times the standard. It was shocking,” German said.
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