Product, Service & Design Innovation
European Automakers Roll Out Retrofits to Drive Down Diesel Emissions

As the environmental impact of the internal combustion engine — particularly those powered by diesel fuel – begins to rear its ugly head, governments across the globe are cracking down on automakers to address critical air pollution problems, curb emissions and mitigate climate change. Already, a number of members of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group have pledged to remove diesel vehicles from their cities by 2025 and the governments of France and the United Kingdom recently announced plans to ban the sale of gas and diesel-powered vehicles by 2040 and it’s only a matter of time before others follow suit. In response to growing government and civic concerns over diesel, auto giants Audi, BMW and Daimler are making moves to retrofit cars to avoid a repeat of the Volkswagen fiasco.

Across Europe and several other markets — excluding the US and Canada — Audi is rolling out a retrofit program for cars with EU5 and EU6 diesel engines. A total of up to 850,000 cars worldwide with six- and eight-cylinder engines will get new software, which will improve their emissions in real driving conditions beyond the current legal requirements.

The program is being run in close collaboration with Germany’s Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA) and will be carried out free of charge for consumers. Consumers owning Porsche and Volkswagen models that are fitted with the same types of engines (V6/V8 TDI, EU5/EU6) are also eligible to participate in the program.

Through the retrofit program, Audi aims to maintain the future viability of diesel engines and counteract possible bans on vehicles with diesel engines, a move which is increasingly gaining traction in Europe. The program consists of voluntary measures, some of which have already been communicated to the authorities, but investigations by the KBA have not yet been concluded. If those investigations result in further consequences, Audi will be required to implement the required technical solutions for all of its customers as part of the EU5/EU6 retrofit program.

Daimler has also launched a voluntary recall of more than three million Mercedez Benz vehicles in Europe as a result of criminal investigations into diesel deception accusations in both Europe and North America. The company is offering a service upgrade — which involves a software update — that allows the emissions controls to operate under a wider range of conditions.

Going one step further, the company has developed a line of diesel engines with “exemplary emissions” to be rolled out immediately throughout Daimler’s product offerings.

BMW will also provide voluntary software upgrades for at least 350,000 diesel cars that it says will incorporate “knowledge gained in the field over the last years to realize further improvements in emissions.” Much like Audi, the German automaker has been working with German government officials to prevent bans on their diesel vehicles.

Diesel engines have been instrumental in helping European automakers meet increasingly strict emissions regulations designed to address climate change, but while they emit lower amounts of carbon dioxides, the emit a significant amount of harmful nitrogen oxides.

While Audi, BMW and Daimler are fighting to keep diesel in circulation, Volvo is striding forward towards a fossil fuel-free future with the announcement that it will only make electric and hybrid cars from 2019 onwards. If more governments decide to follow France and the UK’s lead, more brands will be required to retrofit their business models in order to stay relevant.


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