Volkswagen emissions scandal update: 10 things every VW owner needs to know

  • The latest on the Volkswagen emissions scandal
  • Advice for every VW, Audi, Seat and Skoda owner
  • What to do, how to tell if your car needs a fix

Volkswagen, the world’s biggest car maker, was rocked by scandal in September 2015 when it emerged that it had systematically cheated emissions tests for much of the past decade.

Between 2009 and 2015 some diesel VWs were fitted with special software to lower harmful NOx emissions when the vehicle ran in laboratory testbed conditions. Emissions sneakily plummeted to pass government tests and rose again in normal driving on road.

In November 2016 London mayor Sadiq Khan called for Volkswagen to pay £2.5m to cover Congestion Charge payments not paid by drivers of affected vehicles in the capital.

The so-called Dieselgate crisis affected 11 million cars worldwide, including 1,189,906 in the UK - many of them owned by company car drivers. Half a year later, the emissions story rumbles on as VW has set aside nearly £13 billion to fix affected cars - treble the previous provision.

What should you do as a Volkswagen owner? How does it affect you if you own an Audi, SEAT or Skoda? Here we answer the ten most common questions. If we don’t respond to your query, why not contact us on social media? You can tweet @Parkersnews or post a comment on our Facebook page here and we’ll do our best to help.

1) How do I tell if my car is affected?

Many Volkswagen group products using the EA189 diesel engine featured the “defeat device”, which automatically went into a test cycle to unrealistically lower NOx emissions when it detected it was in an emissions lab. TDI engines of 2.0, 1.6 and 1.2 litres in capacity were affected - especially those models with EU5 emissions certification, rather than the later EU6 standard.

The manufacturers concerned have written to affected owners and advised them what they need to do. To see if your car is implicated, find the 17-character Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) printed in the bottom corner of the windscreen or in the service book and check the following websites:

Volkswagen emissions scandal

2) Is it only Volkswagens affected by the emissions scandal?

No. The Volkswagen group owns many brands and any car built between 2009-2015 using the popular EA189 four-cylinder diesel engine range is likely to be affected. In the UK the following number of cars made by these manufacturers were affected:

  • Audi: 393,450 UK cars
  • SEAT: 76,773 UK cars
  • Skoda: 131,569 UK cars
  • VW cars: 508,276 UK cars
  • VW commercial vehicles: 79,838 UK vans

3) Which models had the defeat device in?

Surprisingly, there is no one definitive list of ranges affected. Parkers has contacted the manufacturers concerned and found evidence it affects these models on sale in Great Britain:

 Volkswagen emissions scandal

4) If I haven’t heard from my manufacturer, does that mean my car is ok?

Technically, yes. But we’d still advise you check the recall websites listed above to make sure. The companies rely on the DVLA database to contact owners of cars with the cheat software, so be certain your vehicle is registered to your current address.

5) Help! I’m a company car driver - what do I do?

Speak to your employer’s fleet manager, who will know the correct procedure. But you can also check on the recall websites listed above to see if your car is affected, in case the information has not been relayed to you as the day-to-day driver.

6) How will VW, Audi, SEAT and Skoda fix the affected EA189 diesel engines?

New engine control software is being fitted, eliminating the defeat device mode so the motors run naturally at all times. Typically the work will take “less than half an hour” in a main franchised dealer workshop. However, the 1.2- and 1.6-litre diesels will additionally require a new flow rectifier to be fitted, which will take around 45 minutes to fix.

Volkswagen emissions scandal

This is a mesh that calms air flowing into the engine so the accuracy of the air mass sensor is improved - letting the algorithms judge fuel injection more precisely and cleanly.

7) When will dealers do the Dieselgate technical updates to customers’ cars?

This is such a massive recall process, that it cannot do all the engines at once. VW aimed to start fixing the 2.0-litre EA189 engines in the first quarter of 2016; 1.2 diesels in the second quarter; and the 1.6 from the third quarter. However, to date no cars apart from the Amarok pickup have yet been fixed in the UK, as Volkswagen waits for government approvals… Skoda told us it expected to roll out the fixes "from the end of May 2016."

8) Will I have to pay to have my car fixed?

No. The VW group brands are footing the bill for this huge fix programme. No wonder it’s set aside many billions of pounds worldwide to do this remedial work.

Volkswagen emissions scandal

9) Am I owed any compensation?

That’s the big question. At this stage the Government is suggesting that lawsuits are unlikely to have any traction in the UK. But certainly in the US and other countries, disgruntled owners are clubbing to together for class actions, as they believe they were misled by Volkswagen and cheated into buying cars that would never be as clean or efficient as advertised. And American owners are likely to be offered a buyback scheme, according to Department of Justice papers. Sadly, we don’t expect a similar consumer-biased response in Britain…

UPDATE: VW facing legal action from UK motorists

In the latest twist in the Volkswagen ‘dieselgate’ emissions scandal, a group of UK motorists are bringing legal action against the carmaker.

Read our full story on the dieselgate legal action

10) Is it safe to drive affected cars?

Yes. There is no risk in driving the cars affected by the emissions scandal - this is more of a legislative blip, than a safety issue. And Volkswagen promises that owners will not notice any change in the driving characteristics of their vehicles after the fix has been installed.

For more breaking news coverage of the Volkswagen emissions scandal, check out the guide by our sister website CAR magazine.

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