Audi to up­date 850,000 cars as diesel re­calls widen

Kuwait Times - - TECHNOLOGY -

BERLIN: Ger­man au­tomaker Audi says it will fit up to 850,000 diesel cars with new soft­ware to im­prove their emis­sions per­for­mance, fol­low­ing a sim­i­lar move by ri­val Daim­ler as the auto in­dus­try tries to get ahead of pub­lic con­tro­versy over the tech­nol­ogy.

Audi, the lux­ury brand of the Volk­swa­gen Group, an­nounced the vol­un­tary retrofitting pro­gram on Fri­day. The com­pany said in a state­ment that it “aims to main­tain the fu­ture vi­a­bil­ity of diesel engines” and be­lieves the pro­gram “will coun­ter­act pos­si­ble bans on ve­hi­cles with diesel engines.”

The free pro­gram, which will ap­ply to Europe and other mar­kets out­side the US and Canada, ap­plies to cars with six-cylin­der and eight-cylin­der diesel engines. The ser­vice ac­tion also ap­plies to Porsche and Volk­swa­gen mod­els with the same types of engines. On Tues­day, Daim­ler said it will vol­un­tar­ily re­call 3 mil­lion Mercedes-Benz cars with diesel engines in Europe to im­prove their emis­sions per­for­mance.

Diesels have been un­der a cloud since Volk­swa­gen ad­mit­ted equip­ping ve­hi­cles with soft­ware that ma­nip­u­lates the level of emis­sions. In the US, the soft­ware turned on emis­sions con­trols dur­ing lab tests and il­le­gally turned them off when the cars were on the road, to im­prove per­for­mance.

Sep­a­rately, five Ger­man au­tomak­ers Mercedes-Benz, Opel and Volk­swa­gen and its sub­sidiaries Audi and Porsche - last year agreed to re­call a to­tal of 630,000 diesel ve­hi­cles in Europe af­ter it was found that real-world emis­sions of­ten ex­ceeded EU emis­sions stan­dards.

There have been calls for bans on diesels in sev­eral Ger­man cities due to con­cerns about pol­lu­tion lev­els, while the gov­ern­ment in the large south­ern state of Baden-Wuert­tem­berg has said it would re­ject such de­mands if au­tomak­ers came up with a way to ad­just older ve­hi­cles to re­duce emis­sions lev­els. Volk­swa­gen has ad­mit­ted us­ing il­le­gal soft­ware in 11 mil­lion ve­hi­cles world­wide. It agreed to pay more than $20 bil­lion in civil and crim­i­nal set­tle­ments and penal­ties in the US and eight ex­ec­u­tives have been charged there. In other cases, en­gine con­trol soft­ware turns off emis­sion con­trols at cer­tain tem­per­a­tures to avoid en­gine dam­age, car­mak­ers say. That ex­emp­tion is le­gal but Ger­man reg­u­la­tors have ques­tioned whether its use was al­ways jus­ti­fied.

Auto ex­ec­u­tives and state and city of­fi­cials will meet with Trans­port Min­is­ter Alexan­der Do­brindt at a “diesel sum­mit” over the is­sue on Aug. 2 in Berlin.

Gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials say the pur­pose of the sum­mit is to re­duce diesel emis­sions and at the same to en­sure that the tech­nol­ogy can con­tinue to be used in the fu­ture. The auto in­dus­try is a ma­jor em­ployer in Ger­many and it’s an elec­tion year, with a na­tional elec­tion slated for Sept. 24.

Diesels have lower emis­sions of car­bon diox­ide, one of the green­house gases blamed by sci­en­tists for global warm­ing. Au­tomak­ers say diesel is there­fore needed to meet stricter lim­its on CO2 emis­sions as part of fight­ing cli­mate change. Ex­pen­sive and cum­ber­some emis­sions con­trols are needed, how­ever, to re­duce emis­sions of ni­tro­gen ox­ide, an air pol­lu­tant that harms health.

Stock prices of au­tomak­ers fell Fri­day af­ter a re­port in Der Spiegel mag­a­zine that they had col­luded for years on hold­ing down the cost of diesel tech­nol­o­gyand that in­for­ma­tion about the meet­ings had been given to Ger­man anti-trust au­thor­i­ties. Daim­ler shares were off 2.1 per­cent, while BMW shares fell 2.6 per­cent and Volk­swa­gen dipped 2.8 per­cent.

The Spiegel re­port said com­pa­nies had agreed on things like the size of the tanks that hold a urea so­lu­tion in­jected into ex­haust gases to con­trol emis­sions of ni­tro­gen ox­ide. The re­port could not be in­de­pen­dently con­firmed.

—AP

In this March 15, 2017 file photo, the four-ring logo of Ger­man car pro­ducer Audi is pho­tographed at the head­quar­ters af­ter the an­nual press con­fer­ence in In­gol­stadt, Ger­many.

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