VW Emissions Scandal Explained


With the VW emissions scandal seemingly just the tip of the iceberg, it is important consumers understand how to make informed decisions about their next car purchase and buy a vehicle that is both economical and environmentally-friendly.


A device was recently detected in a range of VW cars sold in the US, by the Environmental Protection Agency. The software, known as the defeat device, can detect when a car is being tested and change its performance to improve results such as emissions and fuel economy.


1 - The software detected testing scenarios (steering wheel position, engine operation...) and put the car into a safety mode, running it below usual power. When back on the road this mode was deactivated.

11 Million - VW has admitted that although the scandal was first discovered in the USA, there were a further 11 million cars across the world that have been cheated.

40 x The engines in these vehicles are emitting 40 times more nitrogen oxide pollutants than the US legally allows.

VW Emmissions Explained Infographic


Cars with an EA189, 2.0 litre diesel engine manufactured between 2009 and 2015 are affected. The information regarding your model is available in your V5C document or in your service book. 1.2 million vehicles in the UK are affected.

Your vehicle will remain legal if you decide not to get it modified, but it could affect any remaining warranty and also the vehicle's resale value.

VW is telling people the cars are still safe and roadworthy – the problem is only with the emissions.

Other brands with affected engines include those of VAG members, Audi, Seat, Porche and Skoda.

It's thought that affected vehicles will be recalled to have the software updated or remapped and a courtesy vehicle should also be provided free of charge.

Early signs are that the resale value of VW cars have taken a small hit since the scandal was revealed ,with a drop of 0.2% compared to a market rise of 2.8% during September 2015.

Law firms believe that owners of affected vehicles may be entitled to compensation due to the loss of resale value. Not only this, but road tax for these vehicles is also likely to rise.

It is unlikely that insurance will be affected as there is no safety issue.


RECALLING CARS - From January 2016 VW will begin recalling cars that were fitted with the 'defeat device' – almost 500,000 are expected to be recalled in America alone, costing the company £4.7bn.

FINES - The EPA has the power to charge any company that does not adhere to standards up to $37,500 per car. For VW this could amount to $18bn.

BRAND DEGREDATION - VW shares have dropped 30% since the scandal was made public and consumers lost trust.

DIESEL THREATS - A blow for the diesel market – money has been invested into the diesel car market on the belief that they are better for the environment. The impact on the diesel market in UK and USA will be huge and costly.

Emissions and the environment

Poor air quality, noise, congestion and climate change are the reasons that road transport is considered to be one of the main sources of pollution in the UK.

13,000 - Nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons are all air pollutants from transport. Vehicles are responsible for the majority of pollution in town and city centres, with approximately 13,000 premature deaths a year caused by UK combustion emissions.

311 Billion - In 2014 all motor vehicle traffic in Great Britain was 311 billion vehicle miles, 2.4% higher than in 2013 and this is set to increase further in 2015. Even with new measures in place, it will still be a major contributor to greenhouse emissions.

22% - Road transport is responsible for 22% of total UK emissions of carbon dioxide – a huge contributor to climate change. The EU has agreements with car makers to reduce the amount of CO2 produced from new models and in all show rooms stickers on new cars display how much CO2 each one emits.


To reduce the amount of pollutants your car releases into the atmosphere and ultimately save money on fuel, you need to learn to drive smart. The tips below will help.

CAR SHARE - Wherever possible, share your journey into work with colleagues to save fuel and the environment.

REMOVE WEIGHT - Avoid carrying excess weight to ensure maximum efficiency and an easy journey for your car.

TYRE PRESSURE - Regularly check your tyres are at the correct pressure, as if they are too low your car will burn more fuel.

DON'T SPEED - Over-revving the engine, and travelling at excessive speeds are guaranteed to make your car less efficient.

SERVICE OFTEN - Whatever the age of your car, it needs to be serviced after it has travelled a certain number of miles.

USE HIGHER GEARS - The lower the gears, the more fuel is used, so make sure you change up a gear as soon as possible.

TURN ENGINE OFF - Don't leave your engine running indefinitely when stationary, as you're burning fuel to go nowhere.

AVOID GADGETS - Think about whether you really need that air conditioning on or if an open window would suffice.


The introduction of the Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation – requiring 5% of road fuels, to come from renewable sources by 2013.

Car drivers have been taxed according to their vehicle's CO2 emissions and fuel type – tax discounts are offered to the drivers of biofuel and hybrid vehicle.

A mandatory CO2 target has been set by the European Union for Car Manufacturers – there is a planned reduction of 40% to be reached by 2020

Financial rewards have been introduced for those cars with lower CO2 emissions

Looking to buy a new vehicle?


If you're looking to buy a new vehicle it is important to consider the various fuel types on offer, and the pros and cons of each.


  • Lower local pollution levels
  • Improved fuel efficiency is now being seen from new petrol engine technologies
  • If choosing between a petrol and a diesel – it is best to find the exact emissions figures of each and compare


  • High efficiency and lower CO2 emissions than petrol
  • High levels of nitrogen oxide and particulates more than new petrol engines
  • Diesel engines are good in terms of climate change, but have local pollutants that are bad for your health


  • Cheap and emit almost no emissions at all when in use
  • When the battery is charged there are emissions created
  • Battery power is improving, but at present the average offers only 100 miles
  • Perfect for urban driving


  • Liquid petroleum gas (LPG) vehicles tend to be dual-fuel and are cleaner than petrol engines with similar CO2 emissions to a diesel
  • Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) have lower co2 emissions than diesel and particulate emissions are also incredibly low


  • An electric motor, battery and conventional petrol engine are used in Hybrid vehicles
  • Low Co2/Pollutant emissions
  • UK market offers several Hybrid models


  • Produced from oil crops and usually sold in blends up to 5% with petrol or diesel
  • They offer massive carbon savings over petrol / diesel
  • Compatible with most available vehicle types

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