Volkswagen is a name built on trust – but the decades of goodwill based on reliability and efficient engineering has evaporated in the scandal of fake emissions tests.
The world’s largest car firm based in Wolfsburg, Germany, now has to rebuild from ground zero after admitting more than 11 million cars worldwide were rigged with sophisticated software that gave false readings in emissions testing.
Germany’s transport minister explained cars with 1.6 and 2.0 litre diesel engines were the mainly affected vehicles.
Since the scandal broke, the company has seen billions wiped off share values on the stock market, lost a chief executive who claims no wrong doing and announced more than £4.5 billion has been set aside to deal with vehicle call-backs.
Unfortunately, the disaster does not stop there.
Both the US and German governments are looking at criminal investigations to identify the culprits responsible for faking the tests.
The software sat dormant in the vehicles until engineers hitched them up for testing, then the software took over and gave out false readings within emission test guidelines.
As yet, no one had admitted responsibility.
However, this sophisticated cheating must have been sanctioned at a high level in the company and somewhere in the giant Wolfsburg complex; software coders and engineers are responsible for developing the program.
Now, trading standards departments in governments worldwide are looking at if Volkswagen is the only car maker duping the system and if others are complicit.
Alexander Dobrindt, the German transport minister, has initiated inquiries with other German car makers, such as BMW and Mercedes. Other governments are likely to follow suit across Europe and the US.
How are you affected?
The car industry knows how and to some extent, who has rigged the tests. The other question of why remains unanswered.
The likely reason is the costs of developing new engines meet emissions requirements that differ between countries.
Research and development involved in building a car engine runs in to hundreds of millions of pounds.
Volkswagen has revealed little about how the scandal affects car owners.
Dealers worldwide are still open for business as usual – and other marques are fitted with Volkswagen engines, so the issue is widespread. Audi, SEAT and Skoda are all part of the Volkswagen group.
The company is telling owners that their cars are safe and the problems only affect emission tests. Vehicles will be recalled and have a technical update applied that ensures the software in question gives correct readings.