As a result of the willful deceit by Volkswagen to pass emissions certification tests through manipulation of its vehicles' software, the Environmental Protection Agency announced it will conduct sample tests on all diesel passenger car models to be sold for the new model year.

The EPA strives to hold manufacturers accountable to the latest emissions standards by validating their performance through laboratory and real-world evaluations. However, the EPA's testing protocol is based on the assumption that automakers would not cheat. Volkswagen has provided a wake-up call to the possibility for a company to creatively drive through loopholes in the process.

As a result, the EPA will add new tests to detect so-called "defeat devices" that can bend the rules in an automaker’s favor. The EPA will not release details on how it will seek out the cheats, but it is notifying all manufacturers of the general changes to its test program.

Currently, the agency is actively collecting diesel cars from consumers and rental fleets to augment models culled from manufacturers. These cars will be put through a battery of tests. This effort is being coordinated with Environment Canada, a similar agency.

In a media conference call today, EPA officials explained that they do not need more resources to accomplish these goals. Instead, it is a matter of shifting resources from commercial truck emissions—as big rigs are the source of most on-the-road pollutants.  

Volkswagen’s School of Hard NOx

VW admitted to circumventing the emissions control system in about 482,000 diesel vehicles sold in the United States since 2008 with a 2.0-liter diesel engine. Volkswagen concealed facts from the EPA and the California Air Resources Board, or CARB, and ultimately misled consumers who were attracted to “clean diesel.”

The EPA states that the investigation into Volkswagen’s actions are ongoing. When asked to speculate as to the penalties the German automaker might face, an EPA official repeated that the potential fine could be as much as $37,500 per vehicle.

This process is leading up to a recall to bring the affected cars into conformity with emissions regulations. When issued, the recall will come from Volkswagen, and the repairs will be performed at no cost to owners.

Of course, the EPA will validate the fixes to ensure they not only work but also that there isn’t a negative impact on consumers. Consumer Reports currently has three VW diesels in our test fleet, and once the recalls are performed, we will re-evaluate their fuel efficiency and performance.

It is expected that a software fix can readily bring 2015 models into line. However, VW might need some time to determine a proper solution for older models, which have different diesel-emissions systems.

For now, the cars are safe and legal to drive. No action is needed by drivers. CARB has said it will permit the private-party sale of used VW diesels

Also read "Will Volkswagen's Penalty Be High Enough?" by Consumer Reports President and CEO Marta L. Tellado, Ph.D., on