In September of 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency found that many Volkswagen cars being sold in America had a so-called “defeat device” - or software - in their diesel engines that could detect when the vehicles were being tested, changing the performance accordingly to improve results.
VW has had a major push to sell diesel cars in the US, backed by a huge marketing campaign trumpeting its cars’ low emissions. The EPA’s findings cover 482,000 cars in the US only, including the Volkswagen-manufactured Audi A3, and the VW models Jetta, Beetle, Golf and Passat. But VW has admitted that about 11 million cars worldwide, including eight million in Europe, are fitted with the so-called “defeat device”.
Eventually, it was found out that the engines emitted nitrogen oxide pollutants up to 40 times above what is allowed in the US.
A whistleblower has sued Volkswagen, alleging that he was fired after trying to stop the company deleting evidence relevant to U.S. authorities’ investigations into excess emissions by its cars.
According to the German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung, the employee, who worked in a data center for Volkswagen in Michigan, claims the company had carried on deleting data for weeks after an order from the Department of Justice on Sept. 18, 2015 to stop routine data deletions. The suit alleges that VW had internally justified its actions by citing ‘a lack of storage space.’