The German who discovered the Volkswagen emissions scandal

From the BBC:

“I’m just a simple engineer from Michigan,” says John German, the man who helped discover the Volkswagen emissions scandal.”

There is a feature on Mr German, being an interesting look at how the situation was revealed. It tends to highlight the strange conceit somebody at VW – actually more than one person – had that the defeat devices would never be discovered.

Note this extract from the BBC piece:

“Mr German finished his report and turned over all his team’s data to the EPA in May 2014.

He says he also sent a courtesy copy to Volkswagen.”

So VW knew, or ought to have known, in 2014.

Compare and contrast with this from the VW CEO: (seen at the Register):

Volkswagen America CEO Michael Horn has played the “rogue employee” card to explain how and why his cars’ engine software cheated in pollution tests.

While being grilled by the US House Committee on Energy and Commerce on Thursday, Horn said he only learned of the existence of the so-called emissions-hoodwinking “defeat device” in September of this year, when regulators uncovered the nefarious software.

Horn, like the rest of VW’s upper crust, claims that management was entirely in the dark about the fact that more than half a million cars in the US had been rigged to suppress emissions while being tested, only to surpass the EPA-allowed levels of pollutants by more than 30 times when driven on the open road.

These two stories have, shall we say, the potential for conflict. What happened to German’s May 2014 report? Was it never seen by “management?” Seems unlikely. (It may depend on how you define “management” though. At the very least, it seems that in May 2014, somebody at VW knew there was a problem. And, it wouldn’t take a rocket scientist to work out what the problem was.

But, as to VW’s knowledge, ┬áthere’s this, also from the Register:

Volkswagen was reportedly warned about rigging emissions tests on its vehicles years ago, not only by one of its suppliers but also the German car giant’s own engineers.

According to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung newspaper, VW’s technicians flagged up concerns about the engine management software the company was using in its motors back in 2011.

It was also reported today [27 September 2015] that VW had been cautioned eight years ago not to rig the tests by its software supplier Bosch. According to Bild am Sonntag, Bosch had written to VW in 2007.

Questions for VW

So, what happened in 2007? And who knew then? And who did they tell?

And what happened in 2011? And who knew then? And who did they tell?

And what happened in 2014? And who knew then? And who did they tell?


VW will keep wriggling, but we probably have not heard the last of the ‘who was responsible’ story.

You can see the John German feature at the BBC, here.