Volkswagen is now facing a second investigation, as regulators in the United States have begun looking into a second program in the German automotive company’s diesel vehicles that is also suspected of affecting the emission controls of the cars.
The news comes after Volkswagen recently admitted to installing cheating devices into 11 million of its diesel vehicles worldwide in order to trick regulators into believing that their vehicles were compliant with emission standards, when in actuality they were producing pollution up to forty times the allowable levels.
The company has already stated that it plans to cut diesel vehicles from their 2016 lineup in the United States.
The existence of the second program was disclosed by President of Volkswagen America Michael Horn at a recent Congressional hearing. According to environmental laws, the program is considered to be an auxiliary emissions control device, which changes the performance of the emission-controlling equipment.
Volkswagen would not state whether or not this recently discovered software was designed to cheat emissions control tests like the first program that was discovered.
Agency spokesperson Nick Conger said, “VW did very recently provide EPA with very preliminary information on an auxiliary emissions control device that VW said was included in one or more model years."
Typically, automotive companies are allowed to use such auxiliary emissions control devices in their vehicles. These devices function by temporarily increasing emissions when the car is working under stressful conditions, such as travelling up a steep hill or driving in very cold weather. However, these devices must be disclosed to regulators.
Volkswagen reportedly did not inform regulators about the existence of such a device. According to automotive pollution expert Dan Becker, this is a violation of the law.
Becker stated, “They put it in their vehicles, and then they signed a certification petition to the regulator saying what they put in their vehicles and didn't mention it. It's certainly a material omission."
For now, Volkswagen is focused on fixing its nearly 500,000 diesel vehicles in the United States which were involved in the original scandal. So many cars are affected that owners might have to wait one or two years before their vehicles can be fixed. Most of these cars will require a major fix, such as a change of hardware and software. Some reports have indicated that it might take up to ten hours to fix a single car. Work on these vehicles is expected to begin in 2016.
Horn stressed at the Congressional hearing that the company is focused on fixing the cars instead of buying them back.
“Our plan is not to buy back the inventory. Our plan is to fix the cars,” he said.
Many lawmakers went on to criticize Horn for not providing a firm deadline to fix the vehicles. Horn also failed to provide substantial details about the scandal and who exactly was responsible.
He attributed the incident to "a couple of software engineers who put this in for whatever reason." Horn also did not object when lawmakers expressed beliefs that top executives in the company knew about the scandal before the news was released to the public.