30 September 2015

After the Volkswagen emissions ‘scandal’, is petrol better?

For the last week or so, the news has been flooded with the Volkswagen emissions story. Many have dubbed it a disgusting, fraudulent scandal. On the other hand, Jeremy Clarkson, known for his controversial views, has blamed it all on environmentalists. Calling it ‘harmless cheating’, he likens what VW has done to including a white lie on your CV.

In some ways, he’s right, because environmental voices did push governments, especially in Europe, to encourage everyone to buy diesel cars, until it became apparent how polluting they are. Now, with the focus away from CO2 emissions (which diesels do generally do well at keeping down) and onto Nitrogen Oxide (NOx), a growing number of voices are urging people to consider returning to cleaner, modern petrol cars, or electric if they can afford them.

Volkswagen VW emissions scandal crisis Clarkson Greek German government petrol diesel - Carrot Insurance, telematics for 17-30 year olds - Mk6 Golf

Volkswagen Golf Mk6

I’m sure we all hope that the strong German economy doesn’t crumble under the weight of the VW emissions issue, as the country will then be in a much weaker position as far as assisting refugees from Syria and other such lands, or continuing to prop up the Greek economy.

Volkswagen, rather like Baldrick in Blackadder, announced this week that it’s come up with a cunning plan. Okay, they used the word ‘action’, not ‘cunning’, but you get the picture. VW’s official communication says they are working on resolving things as fast as they can, to keep customers, dealers and everyone else happy.

Volkswagen Group brands flags

Flags of all brands that are part of the Volkswagen family

The company says it’s highly likely that it’s the ‘older’ diesel engines, codenamed EA189, fitted to some of their group cars, which are affected. Basically, this engine type, commonly a 2-litre diesel but also including some 1.6-litre diesels as we understand it, meets the older EU5 emissions, whereas VW Group’s newer diesel engines meet EU6 standards and are not affected.

The EA189 engine the spotlight is on has been fitted to some if not all of the following VW group models, sold approximately been 2008 and 2015, which likely contain the naughty software. Carrot Insurance customers typically driver smaller cars, so we’ve not included larger ones in the list:

  • Audi A3 2010-2015 (including cabriolet)
  • Skoda Yeti 2009-2013
  • SEAT Leon 2012-2015
  • Volkswagen Beetle 2009-2015
  • Volkswagen Golf 2009-2015

If you remember something being said about ‘EU6’ when you bought your diesel car from a VW Group brand, you probably don’t have anything to worry about, and if your car is from 2007 or older, you can almost certainly chill out, too.

If your VW Group car is from a model year between 2008 and 2015, Volkswagen assures everyone they are still safe to drive as normal. They can easily track down who owns and drives what and owners will be contacted by VW in due course to advise on what work needs to be done to ‘fix’ affected cars.

Customers won’t have to pay for any of this, only poor VW will, so you won’t be out of pocket. You may even be lucky enough to get a courtesy car while your car’s taken in for an update, but for now, just get on with your life as normal.

Lamborghini part of Volkswagen Group

Lamborghini is owned by Volkswagen, too, just like Porsche, Audi, Bugatti and Bentley

In the wake of the trouble hitting some of Volkswagen’s diesel cars, does it mean that people really should stop buying diesel and plump for petrol? If you drive a lot of miles every year, the short answer is the diesel is definitely still the way to go, as fuel consumption tends to be higher. On the flipside, if you don’t cover many miles, petrol is probably fine for you.

When it comes to servicing, diesels are typically more expensive to service and also to fix if problems arise, so this is worth bearing in mind, too. Diesel cars tend to be harder to stall and are more forgiving on clumsy drivers, and diesel pump prices have actually fallen below petrol prices lately, so diesel doesn’t now necessarily cost you more to fill up. Second hand diesel cars are often slightly pricier than petrol cars to buy, and the VW ‘scandal’ will come and go given time, so for now, the petrol vs. diesel decision really comes down to how many miles you drive each year.

If you have any questions on the VW situation, get in touch with us on Twitter or Facebook and we’ll try to help the best we can.

Oliver Hammond

Written by Oliver Hammond

Oliver is an established freelance motoring writer, published journalist and automotive copywriter based in Manchester. He regularly reviews cars and covers events and launches as editor of petroleumvitae.com and his articles appear in various magazines each month. No relation to Richard from Top Gear, he’s got a weakness for luxo-barges, proper 4x4s and oddball cars.