John German

Engineer, International Council on Clean Transportation

August 31, 2016

How Volkswagen Got Caught Cheating

“We really didn’t expect to find anything,” German said of his research that found Volkswagen had installed sophisticated software designed to cheat strict emission tests across the world.  His simple test – checking the car’s emissions on real roads rather than in lab test conditions – led to the resignation of VW’s chief executive after the German company was forced to admit it installed “defeat devices” in 11m cars.  The scandal has wiped more than €24bn ($26.8bn) off VW’s market value.

German said it was unclear how the defeat device software worked, but the software could work by detecting periods when the steering column wasn’t turning but the wheels were which would indicate the car was on dynamo-meters for testing, or could also test for the precise uniform temperature that the tests are carried out at.

About the speaker

John German’s focus is on technology innovation and U.S. policy development.  Mr. German has been involved with advanced technology and efficiency since joining Chrysler in 1976, where he spent 8 years in Powertrain Engineering working on fuel economy issues.  He then spent 13 years doing research and writing regulations for EPA’s Office of Mobile Sources’ laboratory in Ann Arbor, followed by 11 years as Manager of Environmental and Energy Analyses for American Honda Motor Company.  Mr. German is the author of a variety of technical papers and a book on hybrid gasoline-electric vehicles published by SAE.  He was the first recipient of the Barry D. McNutt award, presented annually by SAE for Excellence in Automotive Policy Analysis.  He has a bachelor’s degree in Physics from the University of Michigan and got over half way through an MBA before he came to his senses. 

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