Automobiles

Germans still support Volkswagen, despite emissions scandal, survey finds

An online survey finds a strong preference for Volkswagen in its home country despite mounting evidence that the scandal may send automakers away from diesels in general.

2014 Volkswagen Jetta TDI
Recent stories suggest the presence of more than one type of diesel defeat device. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Volkswagen's diesel emissions scandal doesn't seem to have hurt the automaker's image too much in its home country.

Volkswagen has been under fire since September after admitting that it included "defeat device" software on its diesel vehicles that allowed the cars to pass emissions tests, only to ramp up smog-causing emissions once they were on the road. What's followed is a morass filled with global recalls and management shakeups.

Despite the firestorm surrounding Volkswagen's diesel deceit, opinion of the brand remains staggeringly high. A recent survey by market-research firm Prophet found that 65 percent of Germans still consider Volkswagen's vehicles "outstanding" and think the current media frenzy is taking things too far. Many also apparently view the scandal as a passing squall, with 63 percent of respondents saying they believe the issue will soon disappear. The independent online survey of 1,000 adult German residents was conducted on October 5 and published Monday.

Perhaps the most surprising finding in Prophet's survey is that 91 percent of respondents believe Volkswagen is not the only company cheating on diesel-emissions tests. That is a serious accusation that, thus far, other automakers have managed to avoid.

Despite the survey's results, the beleaguered brand is going through some tough times, with more bad news coming with each passing day. The latest news from Volkswagen's diesel emissions scandal suggests the presence of more than one defeat device, and any rigorous testing for future diesel models could render the affected cars unaffordable.

Reuters reports that Volkswagen has not one but "several" variants of its test-duping software applied on vehicles around the world. This revelation would make it harder for investigators to believe the automaker's claim that the defeat devices were the creation of a small group, unbeknownst to managers and executives. The automaker refused to comment on the matter, citing investigations already underway.

To ensure this cheat never happens again, European agencies are working to organize a new battery of tests that better capture a diesel vehicle's real-world emissions. That said, the cost inherent with running these new tests could result in diesels costing more than their gasoline counterparts, even when the extra fuel economy is taken into account.

If the vehicles are too expensive to make the additional mileage worth it, automakers the world over could start shying away from diesel propulsion nearly immediately, warns the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association.

"The automobile industry agrees with the need for emissions to more closely reflect real-world conditions, and has been calling for proposals for years," the trade group said in a statement to Reuters. "However, it is important to proceed in a way which allows manufacturers to plan and implement the necessary changes, without jeopardizing the role of diesel as one of the key pillars for fulfilling future CO2 targets."