The VW software reduces the purification of exhaust gases, chiefly nitrogen oxide, when the weather is colder than 15 C (59 F) or climbs above 33 C (91.4 F), as well as when the vehicle is driven at an altitude of 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) or more.
Rantos said that the temperature window when the exhaust fumes were being cleaned “is not representative of real driving conditions” because temperatures often drop below 15 C (59 F) in Austria and Germany, where cars are also routinely driven at higher altitude.
The automaker faced a diesel emissions scandal after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2015 found that the company had installed special software to rig U.S. emissions tests for its latest “clean diesel” vehicles. Volkswagen has apologized and paid more than 31 billion euros ($36 billion) in fines, recall costs and compensation to car owners.
The German car manufacturer admitted to fitting millions of cars with the device and it turned out that the use of the cheating software hadn't been isolated to the U.S. In Europe, it had argued that the software could be justified by the fact that it helps protect the engine over time.
This story was first published on September 23, 2021. It was updated on September 24, 2021 to add that software in Volkswagen cars to alter pollutant emissions in hot or cold weather doesn’t conform to EU law unless it prevents sudden damage to the engine in case of the failure of certain components, and that damage can’t be prevented by regular maintenance.