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Audi cars: has a new emissions scandal been uncovered?

Petrol and diesel Audi cars in the firing line

Audi logo

It is being reported that Audi cars with automatic transmissions may have a defeat device that obscures just how much CO2 they produce.

The German newspaper, Bild Am Sonntag, has reported that the California Air Resources Board (CARB) in the US has found another potential defeat device in cars belonging to the VW Group – the company still dealing with the Dieselgate scandal.

This time, the defeat device is alleged to be in US-market Audi cars and it can reportedly alter the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) produced under lab-test conditions.

CO2 is harmful to the environment and, here in the UK, the more your car produces, the more car tax you have to pay. CO2 does not have a finite limit in the same way as other emissions do, such as NOx and particulate matter.

Which? tests cars like no one else – we don’t just find out how a car drives, we also use stringent lab tests to measure fuel economy, boot space, visibility and practicality.

Second VW Group defeat device?

According to the report, an Audi car can detect it’s on a rolling road through its steering. Having done so, the car will alter its running mode to produce lower-than-normal CO2 emissions.

The device is said to be in both petrol and diesel cars, but it is unclear how many vehicles would be affected if true, how many are in Europe or even whether the device would be illegal under European law.

When we contacted both CARB and Audi for comment, CARB responded to tell us it cannot comment on an ongoing investigation. However, it did confirm that if it finds illegal undisclosed auxiliary emissions control devices, CARB will aggressively pursue the investigation and require the manufacturer to correct the violations at its own expense. This includes CO2.

An Audi spokesperson confirmed that the brand is looking into this alleged problem, although was unable to provide further detail:

‘We are currently holding intensive discussions on complex software issues with several parties in the United States. Please understand that in view of these ongoing discussions and the agreement to maintain absolute confidentiality, we cannot comment on this matter.’

The alleged device is different to the one revealed in September 2015’s Dieselgate scandal, which altered the amount of NOx produced by diesel cars from VW, Audi, Seat and Skoda – all brands that belong to the VW Group.

Following the Dieselgate scandal, Which? removed 23 Best Buy awards from VW Group, including seven from affected Audi models.

CO2 and car tax

Your car tax is based on how much CO2 your car produces. Many diesel and hybrid cars are currently exempt from paying car tax because they produce less than 100g/km of CO2.

But rules are changing. As of April 2017, only zero-emission cars will be exempt from car tax – owners of all other cars will be subject to a £140 flat rate from the second year of ownership.

Planning to buy a car over £40,000? The same new rules mean you will pay an additional £310 per year for five years, even if it’s electric.

Is it better to buy your new car now or before 1 April 2017? Find out by reading our car tax guide.

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