California Urges Manufacturers to Tattle on Themselves

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On Wednesday, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) urged manufacturers to disclose any unapproved hardware or software that might place a vehicle’s emissions outside of the acceptable parameters of legality. CARB said those who comply would be subjected to reduced penalties and reminded everyone that it’s going to be opening a state-of-the-art testing facility that will be better at catching cheaters in 2021. It’s so advanced, the board suggested it might even be able to catch totally new violations.

You’ve likely seen this tactic employed by an exasperated parent or substitute teacher. An illicit substance is found tucked away somewhere and they parade it around demanding whoever owns it to fess up immediately or face harsher consequences later. This obvious trap is best avoided by committing a lesser crime right then and there or being so obstinate that you’re issued a minor punishment just for being annoying  thus freeing you of suspicion for the pornography Mr. Lawson found taped beneath the bleachers.

Though that might only buy manufacturers some time. Government regulators around the world are presently fixated on emissions violations and there’s big money in busting someone down. Daimler recently agreed to spend $2.2 billion to settle emissions-cheating allegations in the United States and Fiat Chrysler paid nearly half that in 2019. Of course, those fines pale in comparison to the original Dieselgate scandal from 2015. Volkswagen Group has spent tens of billions dealing with the emissions-cheating fiasco over the years.

The California Air Resources Board even bragged about how much money it had procured from “vehicle and engine manufacturers who did not voluntarily disclose violations” in the past by noting the staggering size of some settlements in Wednesday’s letter. It likewise warned industry players that its latest threats were not empty. Annoyed that so many companies had not proactively outed themselves five years earlier, the board announced its new screening tests have been incredibly helpful in deciding which companies require “further investigation” in the string of cases it has planned.

The message couldn’t be clearer  companies need to confess their environmental sins to California now or be thrown on the pyre for software-related witchery.

From CARB:

The results of this expanded program are now visible for all to see: multiple settlements with manufacturers for cheating on their certification documentation. Those settlements revealed a sad litany of disbenefits to public health as a result of excess emissions, and a commensurate amount of money  now exceeding one billion dollars, with more investigations underway  for mitigation and penalties with numerous manufacturers. Full compliance with CARB’s emission regulations for vehicles and other mobile sources is essential to California’s plans to meet air quality targets and to protect heavily impacted communities from the harmful effects of air pollution exposure.

This situation will not continue  It is a clear violation of public health to pollute the air with illegal devices, and it undermines the essential trust that has supported the certification program for decades. CARB is therefore now writing to you again to encourage voluntary disclosure of any potential violations with respect to these and other applicable regulatory requirements. Voluntary disclosure will trigger a reduction in penalties; failure to do so may affect the result of future enforcement actions involving your company when CARB’s new techniques and its new state-of-the-art testing laboratory opening in 2021  inevitably detect any violations you may have.

Ironically, defeat devices only exist to falsify testing data when manufacturers don’t feel they can adhere to the emissions standards set by regulators  and it’s looking like the bar has been set too high for diesel motors. Following the government crackdowns, automakers have moved away from diesel passenger vehicles quite aggressively  with several having eliminated them from their lineups entirely (e.g. BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Volkswagen).

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