Will the emissions-fixing scandal affect UK drivers?

The recent headlines about the Volkswagen Group’s emissions test software have made worrying reading for environmentalists and motorists alike, with more than ten million vehicles worldwide believed to be fitted with the dodgy programming.

It allows the German manufacturer – whose vehicles include not just Volkswagen, but Audi, Skoda, Seat and VW Commercial as well – to fix the outcome of emissions tests, falsifying the data in order to achieve a pass.

At a time when carbon footprints are under scrutiny both within the automotive world and in other industries and even people’s personal lives, many motorists who believed they were investing in a piece of ‘German efficiency’ will no doubt be left feeling duped.

But just what is the exposure in the UK automotive market – and what are the implications as the case rolls on?

Who’s affected by the emissions-fixing scandal?

First of all, it’s very clear that a large number of vehicles sold to the UK market were equipped with the suspect software, so the short answer is that yes, some UK drivers will be affected directly by this case.

About 1.2 million of the vehicles – roughly 10% of the global total – are believed to be in the UK, eclipsing the 500,000 in the US where the problem was first reported.

Nobody can say for sure how many of these vehicles produced falsified emission test results during manufacture, or even if their actual carbon footprint is likely to be significantly different, or outside of the permitted range.

But it is only natural for drivers to want to know the answers to these questions – and that is the next step.

What happens next?

The only real way to resolve the situation is to call in every vehicle known to be fitted with the offending software, and perform a new emissions test with reliable results.

VW have reportedly set aside nearly £5 billion for this phase, and will be identifying the affected vehicles and contacting their current owners.

This is specifically NOT a product ‘recall’ in the usual sense of there being a safety concern; there is no reason to stop using any car or commercial vehicle in the short term because of this issue.

And then what?

It’s fair to want to know what the end result of this issue will be, but it’s impossible to be certain at this stage, and the outcome is likely to depend on just how many vehicles are found to be affected.

Ultimately, many drivers want peace of mind first and foremost, but there are also many other complications to take into account.

For example, the commercial vehicles equipped with this software may have been included in companies’ calculations of their own carbon footprints – extending the controversy into one that affects corporate environmental responsibility policies too.

And for private motorists, there is the question of resale value, as the likelihood of selling an affected vehicle at its full market price may be reduced.

For now, it seems unlikely that resale values will be adversely affected, and the amount of road tax you pay shouldn’t change either.

Early indications are that drivers will not suffer a significant financial hit; affected vehicles will still pass their MOT; and only time will tell whether a compensation payout will be made to those motorists with offending cars.