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If you've watched or read the news in recent weeks, you'll have heard about the Volkswagen emissions scandal.
Whether you own a VW or not, here's a look at whether or not you might be affected.
The furore was triggered when VW admitted it used ‘defeat’ devices to falsify emissions tests in the United States – effectively making its diesel cars seem much greener than they really are.
It has now spread around the world and ensnared other car manufacturers.
VW is preparing to recall about 500,000 vehicles in the US and bracing itself for the legal and financial fallout.
It has also acknowledged that the rigging of emissions tests could affect a further 11 million cars worldwide.
So where does that leave UK owners of VW cars – and should drivers with other marques be worried? Here are the answers to some key questions on a scandal that has rocked the motoring world…
Is my car affected?
The scandal affects diesel cars with the EA 189 diesel engine, sold between 2008 and 2015. The log or service book should tell you the car’s engine type.
Or you could contact your dealer. Alternatively, VW has set up a website where you can enter your vehicle identification number (VIN) to see if your vehicle has been affected.
If you don't know your car's VIN, it should be printed on a card attached to the passenger side door post.
I don’t drive a VW. Do I have to worry?
You might be driving what is effectively a VW without knowing it.
VW owns several brands, including Audi, SEAT and Skoda, as well as top-end names such as Bentley and Porsche.
In other words, it’s not just VW drivers that have cause for concern. The big sellers with the EA 189 engine include VW Golf and Passat, plus the Audi A4 and Skoda Octavia.
Some commentators are even suggesting that rigging of tests might be endemic across the industry. Les Roberts’ blog on the subject, written back in 2013, ran through the tricks of the trade employed by manufacturers keen to show their wares in their best light.
Can I still drive my car?
The scandal centres on emissions tests, not safety tests. VW has confirmed all vehicles are roadworthy and safe to drive.
Will my car be recalled?
A mass recall of UK cars is far from certain. It's not yet clear whether all the cars were fitted with the same defeat device, or whether it could cheat the EU emission tests.
Should I return my car to the dealer?
No. Don’t do anything. If it is necessary to recall your car, VW will contact you directly, in writing.
Will I be charged if my car is recalled?
No. VW will cover the costs of any repairs carried out.
Is the government doing anything?
Patrick McLoughlin MP, transport secretary, has called for an EU investigation into the emissions scandal.
The Department for Transport (DfT) has already started its investigations and has written to manufacturers to ask them whether they have knowingly fitted similar defeat devices to their models before the Vehicle Certification Agency (VCA) carries out laboratory and real world tests.
DfT will work closely with VCA and the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) to carry out the tests, and neither the cars nor the testing facilities will be provided by the vehicle industry themselves - so the tests will be completely impartial.
Once the tests have been carried out, the results will be used to benchmark for further testing, and while the final tests are yet to be confirmed, it's clear the government is taking this issue very seriously.
Am I entitled to compensation?
Motorists pay a higher price for cars with low emissions.
So, if it turns out your car has cheated the EU emissions tests, you could have paid more for the car than it was actually worth.
You could therefore be entitled to compensation. VW has set aside almost £5 billion in the wake of the scandal – and the lawyers are already circling.
Will the scandal affect the resale value of my car?
The emissions rigging could have a short-term impact on the price of second hand VW vehicles. But it’s unlikely to have any long-term effect on their value.
Experts point to the recent recall by Toyota, which did not cause used values to fall, even though it concerned the safety of the vehicles.
Will I have to pay more to tax my car?
The defeat devices potentially falsify the results for nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions.
Vehicle excise duty (VED, more commonly referred to as car tax) is linked to CO2 emissions, so the scandal should not affect the cost of your road tax.
However, there are several proposals to tax diesel cars specifically to reduce NOx in urban areas. If taxes are introduced on a sliding scale, as is the case for CO2 and VED, then any discrepancy between advertised and genuine emission levels will become highly significant.
However, the UK government has confirmed that consumers who bought vehicles in good faith will not incur additional tax costs - so if you unknowingly bought a car fitted with a defeat device, you won't have to pay any additional VED, even if the car's genuine CO2 readings it put it in a higher tax band.
Will the scandal affect my insurance premium?
It is unlikely the scandal will have a big impact – or indeed any impact – on motor premiums.
Insurers set premiums according to a number of risk factors, such as the make and model of the car, the motorist’s age, occupation, address and driving record.
Emissions tests, rigged or otherwise, don’t really come into the equation.
However, the value of your car can help to determine the premium, so if it drops in value as a result of the scandal, you might expect the cost of cover to fall slightly.
But it would only be slightly – so, emissions notwithstanding, I wouldn’t hold your breath.
Update: Friday, October 23, 2015
VW confirms next-gen engine unaffected
VW has confirmed its EA288 EU5 and EU6 engines - the 2.0-litre TDI engine installed in the next-generation of Golf, Jetta, and Passat models - do not have the illegal ‘defeat device’ installed and therefore comply with European legal requirements and environmental standards. VW has confirmed no recall is necessary and it will inform the owners of these vehicles over the next weeks and months.
Update: 4 November, 2015
Shock as VW scandal extends to CO2 emissions
The scandal affecting VW continues this week on two fronts. First, the US authorities have announced suspected use of a defeat device in 3-litre engines used in Porsche, Audi and some larger VW models, such as the Touareg. VW denies the allegation. It is yet to be determined whether vehicles in the UK may be affected. Secondly, VW has raised the issue of possible irregularities in CO2 levels, mainly in diesel cars – the first time the measurement of carbon dioxide, rather than nitrogen oxide (NOx), emissions have been questioned. Again, we are yet to learn whether UK cars are affected. VW said:
“The Volkswagen Group is moving forward with the clarification of the (existing) diesel issue: during the course of internal investigations irregularities were found when determining type approval CO2 levels. “Based on present knowledge around 800,000 vehicles from the Volkswagen Group could be affected. “Under the ongoing review of all processes and workflows in connection with diesel engines it was established that the CO2 levels and thus the fuel consumption figures for some models were set too low during the CO2 certification process. The majority of the vehicles concerned have diesel engines. “In co-operation with the responsible authorities, Volkswagen will do everything in its power to clarify the further course of action as quickly as possible and ensure the correct CO2 classification for the vehicles affected. “The safety of the vehicles is in no way compromised. A reliable assessment of the scale of these irregularities is not yet possible.”
We’ll let you know when we find out more.