HOW VOLKSWAGEN CHEATED ON THE CALIFORNIA AUTO EMISSIONS RULES: “This was some mischief designed to short sheet the system no doubt, but would they have an out if the case goes before a judge?”

The way most of the regulations are written seems to indicate that the vehicle must have a functional system of this type which is accurately monitoring system performance and meets the maximum emissions requirements at the time of testing. Obviously the VW vehicles in question were doing just that. But cars today have all sorts of bells and whistles which drivers can use to customize their driving experience. They can switch from “performance” mode to “economy” mode with the push of a button. Things like that obviously affect the vehicle’s emissions. Other such options are available. And when you think about it, the “disable device” was really just putting the car into a different mode of operation which includes heavy emissions control. When it was disconnected and ready to head back out on the road it was switching back to a different mode with a bit more performance. None of that changes the fact that the emissions were within the required limits at the time of testing.

Of course that’s a horribly transparent dodge in terms of legal tactics, but the law is generally held to and enforced based on how it is written. Volkswagen was obviously gaming the system here but if it’s going to come down to 18 billion in fines I can’t help but wonder if they won’t make a run at a defense like that in court.

Exit question: how likely is it that the geniuses at VW and Audi were the only ones to dream this up?

And once again, as with their attacks on Toyota in 2010, note that the US government is gunning for a non-UAW approved automaker.