WASHINGTON — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Friday put all automakers on notice that it is beefing up its testing procedures to look for emissions-cheating devices in all diesel vehicles. The announcement follows the ongoing Volkswagen diesel-emissions crisis affecting 11 million vehicles worldwide.
The affected Volkswagen diesel vehicles contain software that turns off emissions controls when they are being driven and turns them on when the car is undergoing an emissions test.
Federal officials characterize the Volkswagen scandal as "a very sophisticated scheme to defeat this test."
The software circumvents EPA and California emissions standards in four-cylinder Volkswagen and Audi diesel cars from model years 2009-'15.
Chris Grundler, director of EPA's office of transportation and air quality, said the agency will not tell automakers what new tests will be conducted in addition to rigorous laboratory tests that are already in place.
"They don't need to know," Grundler said during a media conference call.
He said the EPA will be keeping diesel vehicles "longer and driving them more," while "adapting new approaches and new tests" to track down cheaters.
The emphasis will be on real-world, on-road testing, with vehicles obtained from "citizens and rental-car fleets," Grundler said.
"We have a sense of urgency to address these emissions," he added.
VW's rigged vehicles allowed them to pass EPA tests but emit up to 40 times the pollution limits while driving.
In the past, the EPA primarily conducted on-road testing on big diesel trucks and to check gas mileage estimates on cars and trucks.
BMW issued a statement in advance of the EPA announcement, saying it is "committed to observing the legal requirements in each country and fulfilling all local testing requirements."
"In other words, our exhaust treatment systems are active whether rolling on the test bench or driving on the road," it said. "Clear, binding specifications and processes are in place through all phases of development at the BMW Group in order to avoid wrongdoing."
Mercedes-Benz issued the following statement regarding its diesel vehicles:
"We categorically deny the accusation of manipulating emissions tests regarding our vehicles. A defeat device, a function which illegitimately reduces emissions during testing, has never been and will never be used at Daimler."
Edmunds says: The EPA steps up its testing activities to better protect the public, casting a wide net to track down any other cheats.