Regulators allegedly find new defeat device in Audi transmissions

Like the VW defeat device, this new one allegedly turned on extra emissions controls during lab testing.

Andrew Krok Reviews Editor / Cars
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Andrew Krok
2 min read

Dieselgate's motto seems to be, "Two steps forward, one step back." Despite the $15 billion US settlement moving forward, Volkswagen Group may have more trouble on its hands, thanks to an allegedly new defeat device discovery in an Audi transmission.

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) reportedly discovered a new type of defeat device hidden inside an Audi automatic transmission, Forbes reports, citing a German-language report in Bild am Sonntag. This device was supposedly found in Audi's AL 551 automatic transmission, which is used in both gas and diesel vehicles and was installed in vehicles as recently as May 2016.

Like VW's 2.0-liter defeat device, this new cheat allegedly monitors vehicle inputs and activates a "warm-up function" that produces less carbon dioxide and uses less fuel when the car is in a lab testing environment. Once out in the wild, that function ceases, ramping up emissions and reducing fuel economy.

Bild am Sonntag also claims it found an email where Audi's powertrain chief discusses this system, which means it was more than some operation flying under the noses of the higher-ups.

"We continue to work with regulators on an approved resolution for 3.0L TDI V6 vehicles in the United States," Audi spokesman Mark Clothier said in an emailed statement. "The Court has ordered that these discussions remain confidential." A spokesman for CARB said the group does not comment on ongoing investigations.

There's a chance that this might not be true. Bild am Sonntag claims the defeat device was found four months ago, and it's strange that regulators would choose to not publicize something this important. Furthermore, Germany's KBA transport authority told Reuters that it had received no information about this system from US regulators, which, again, would be pretty weird.

If this turns out to be true, though, it would be yet another problem that Audi has yet to work through. The automaker is still figuring out what to do with thousands of 3.0-liter diesels that weren't included in VW Group's big settlement with US regulators. If this transmission necessitated yet another buyback or recall, the costs could go much higher than they already are.

Update, November 8: Added CARB comment.