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Every scandal begins with a lie. But the truth will come out. And then comes the fallout and the outrage.
Scandals have shaped America since its founding. From business and politics to sports and society, we look on aghast as corruption, deceit and ambition bring down heroes and celebrities, politicians and moguls. And when the dust finally settles, we’re left to wonder: how did this happen? Where did they trip up, and who is to blame? From the creators of American History Tellers, Business Wars and Tides of History comes American Scandal, where we take you deep into the heart of America’s dark side to look at what drives someone to break the rules and what happens when they’re caught. Hosted by Lindsay Graham.
Tue, 28 Jan 2020 10:00
In 2006, Volkswagen executive Martin Winterkorn hatches a plan to boost auto sales in America. The way to do it? Clean diesel cars. But VW's engineers run into a wall, and so they take a troubling shortcut—one that a group of graduate students will inadvertently expose.
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It's September 18th, 2015. Martin Vintercorn is standing across the crowded floor of a convention center. All around him are pristine cars shining like polished gems. Stagelights illuminate them, suggesting a future rich with possibility. Today, Vintercorn is attending the International Motor Show in Frankfurt, Germany. It's the largest automotive event in the world, and this year, over the course of 10 days, over 900,000 people will attend. For people like Vintercorn, this event is a major highlight of the year. It feels like the Olympics. Automakers unveil their newest and most eye catching cars, many of which will soon go on sale to the general public. Vintercorn is the CEO of Volkswagen International. He runs the biggest carmaker on earth, and so he's accustomed to being treated like a champion. But this year, something feels different. Something feels wrong. Vintercorn makes his way across the vast showroom floor, and notices that people are staring at him. This in itself is nothing new. People stare at Vintercorn all the time. Silver haired and scowling, he maintains the stout, yet muscular build of the athlete he once was. He's well aware that many of you him is physically intimidating. It's actually how he likes to be seen. But as he walks past the gleaming vehicles, he can tell everyone is shooting him angry looks. They even seem disappointed. Journalists, auto enthusiasts, car makers. They're usually among his biggest supporters, but now he sees that others are turning away from him. They look down at their smartphones and murmurs as he passes. He feels his pulse quickened. Inside the anger is beginning to rise, but he won't let it get the better in them. He won't fixate on the story everyone's talking about. As of today, Volkswagen is infamous, so is Martin Vintercorn. The company has just been accused of cheating air pollution tests for its vehicles, of deceiving customers and governments. He still can't understand how it happened. He stops to admire a Porsche 991. Vintercorn always dreamed of making cars with cunning edge technology, breath taking designs, like this Porsche. It's a truly beautiful car, and Vintercorn is grateful for the distraction. But just then an A appears at his side and breaks Vintercorn's reverie. His reality and the unfriendly throng at the car show rush back at him. Vintercorn barks a question. What is it? I received an interview request? No. Saisser, whoever it is, tell them no. I have no interest in granting an interview at this time. They're their American sir, and tell the Americans no. Vintercorn turns back towards the Porsche. He senses the aid is still there, rocking back and forth on his tiptoes. Vintercorn's size. That was a dismissal, by the way. I'm sorry, Saisser, but it's not coming for me. Well, I've been sent to inform you that the board is concerned. Many here at the motor show have complaint. Oh, and what are their complaints? The aid hesitates. Tell me what exactly you've heard. People say that if Volkswagen falls, it may very well take down the German economy and global trust in the auto industry. So given recent developments, some question if it was wise for us to even present at this year's show. Vintercorn turns away. He gazes at the dazzling coups, luxury sedans, SUVs, convertibles, the cars he helped bring into existence. They're the cars that helped cement Volkswagen as a dominant force in the market. They're his legacy, and now his legacy is endangered. The aid leans forward, his voice low and urgent. Saer, how would you like to respond? It's in this moment that Vintercorn has a terrible realization. This is probably the last international motor show he will ever attend. He's nearly 70 years old. In his life, he's managed to mostly avoid the kind of mistakes that have failed lesser men, and he's reached heights few couldn't imagine. But now it appears he's made his first serious error. In miscalculation, they could very well cost him and Volkswagen, everything. Okay, the kids are already asking, what's for dinner? But breaking news, empty fridge. That's okay, I'll instant cart. Let's add some organic asparagus and some farm fresh chicken. Easy. Wait, is the oldest vegetarian this week or was it gluten free? Gluten free pasta. Covered either way. Carred it. And finally, some vegetarian gluten free olives from my well earned cocktail. When your family shopping list has more footnotes than groceries, the world is your cart. Visit Instacart.com or download the app and get free delivery on your first order. Offer valid for a limited time, minimum order $10. Delivery subject to availability. Additional terms apply. Lots of people don't know it, but autumn is an ideal time to plant. Shorter days and cooler nights create ideal conditions for the plants to get established. 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This is the basic contract between consumers and companies. We buy their goods and they're honest about what they're selling. But sometimes companies breach this trust. In 2008, Volkswagen began selling a new kind of car. They ran on diesel fuel and Volkswagen build them as an environmentally friendly alternative to regular gas powered vehicles. It called them clean diesels and customers fell in love with their style, functionality, and environmental friendliness. But there was more to these clean diesels that met the eye. A tenacious group of researchers and government regulators would stumble on the truth. The cars were far dirtier than Volkswagen had promised. When Volkswagen was ultimately exposed, the public learned that the company had misled regulators and consumers. It broke the trust and it had established for decades. The ensuing scandal array has profound questions about Volkswagen and large companies in general. Why would a successful company take such a massive risk and how did Volkswagen's maneuvers go on detected for so long? This is episode one, whatever it takes. It's November 2006, nine years before the international motor show at Frankfurt. Today, Martin Vintricorn is at the World Headquarters of Volkswagen in Voltzburg, Germany. He sits in the executive boardroom at the head of a long and polished wooden table. Close blinds keep out the early morning sun and fluorescent bulbs light the room. Vintricorn watches that people file in, taking their seats. Their engineers, board members, and the so called marketing experts. They are his soldiers at his command. Vintricorn came to Voltzwagon 14 years ago. With discipline and ambition, he climbed the corporate ladder and impressed then CEO Ferdinand Piesch. Piesch is a legend. A descendant of Voltzwagon's founders, he steered the company to new heights. Vintricorn currently holds the position of board management CEO and has every intention of following in his predecessor's footsteps. He aims to become CEO of the entire organization. And he's confident he knows what to do in order to take Voltzwagon to the next level. This is how he live off to Piesch's example and build a new legacy. Vintricorn looks down at his watch. This meeting will start at 9 a.m. precisely and not one moment behind schedule. Vintricorn turns to his secretary and issues the command. Shut the door. Vintricorn flicks a stray piece of thread from his sleeve and he begins his voice filling every corner of the room. We have a new goal. By the end of the decade, we will push sales of cars and trucks by 10 million. Vintricorn peers at the individual seated at the conference table. He hears the nervous throat clearing sees their anxious looks. One executive dares to speak. If I may, what you're proposing such a dramatic increase in sales would result? Result in us surpassing GM and Toyota. Yes, we become the number one carmaker in the world. With all due respect sir, how? Vintricorn is ready for the question and happy to answer. Diesel. Diesel. Yes, diesel. Our sales in America are a disgrace. The time has come for us to change our approach. A new American consumer has emerged. They're young. They care about the environment. They're not ashamed to drive a Prius. We'll sell cars to them, but not with a hybrid, with a diesel. It's practical and it's clean. Diesel produces far less carbon dioxide. A marketing executive speaks up. It's an excellent idea, sir, and I agree with you. There's a potentially huge market for diesel in America. Vintricorn smerks. I sent you about to say, but. Well, yes, sir, but you can't make a diesel clean and efficient and high performing. The engineers will figure it out. I don't know that it can be done given the time frame you said. What if they can't deliver? Then I'll find engineers who can. Everybody, Volkswagen is going to dominate global sales. And we're going to do it with diesel fuel. That's something I need everyone to understand. Vintricorn's underlings nod. They understand perfectly well. Days later, an engineer is in a spotless Volkswagen lab in Wolfsburg. He's surrounded by various car parts in the home of large computer processors. He notices that it's 1 p.m. Normally, he and his colleagues would be taking a lunch break, but not today. Because today, and every day this week, he and his team intend to work through lunch and late into the night if necessary. Whatever it takes to find a solution that will please Martin Vintricorn. The engineer's colleagues surround his desk. They pour over charts detailing the latest findings, but the data is not encouraging. The team must develop a new kind of diesel engine and has to be compact enough to fit in a regular passenger car. But the engine must also meet US air pollution standards. Vintricorn is fond of saying that diesel produces less carbon dioxide than gasoline, and that makes it cleaner. It is true, but the engineer knows that's only half the story. Because these engines produce a high amount of nitrogen oxides, which are arguably even worse than carbon dioxide. Nitrogen oxide gases can be devastating to human health. They trigger asthma attacks, heart disease, cancer, chronic bronchitis, and host of other cardiovascular problems. And the engineer can't figure out how to reduce these pollutants in diesel engines. He thought they had a solution, an exhaust gas recirculation system, otherwise known as the EGR. Their EGR seemed promising until the test results came in. The test showed that yes, the system slashed nitrogen oxides, but it also quickly wore down a key filter. Consumers would have to replace that filter every couple of months. It's something that Volkswagen can't reasonably ask from any corner. The engineer shakes his head and turns to his team. They have to find a solution, because in the US, limits on nitrogen oxides are far more strict than in Europe. If they can't solve this problem, then the US environmental protection agency won't certify Volkswagen's new diesels. That means they can't be sold in America. And if that happens, Vintricorn certainly won't make his sales targets. And every last head in this room will roll. The engineer faces his stony face colleagues. He announces that what they have is a physics and logistics problem, but it is solvable. The question is, how are they going to do it, given their time frame and budget? He looks around the room. He silently pleads for someone anyone to offer an idea, but the room stays silent. It's mid November 2006. Rudolph Krebs sits in a dimly lit boardroom surrounded by engineers. His squint said the projection screen with the PowerPoint presentation, schematics, explanations, data on the EPA and its methods it's dizzying. And at this moment, Krebs is uncomfortably aware that as the head of motor development, he is the highest ranking executive at this particular table. And soon he'll need to make a decision, a hard decision. Krebs understands that the engineers have hit a wall with the diesel engine. They can't design an engine that's both clean and performs well. It's a problem that can't be surmounted. Though it turns out there may be a workaround. It's simple, it's elegant, and it's risky. They can modify the engine in a way that's technically illegal, but he believes government officials will never know the difference and neither will consumers. The projector shuts off. The lights come on and Krebs realizes that it's his turn to speak. Now is the moment. He must make a decision. Do it, he says. He orders the engineers to take the risk. Just do it. Don't get caught. Ready to hold some asphalt? Join me, Formula One Champion Will Arnett and comedian Mikahakinen on our new radio program, The Fast and Loose F1 Post Show on AMP. Live every Sunday after the Grand Prix, we'll talk with drivers, teams, and everything in between and dissect what happened on the track and off it. Download the AMP app and follow AMP Presents F1 or ask Alexa to play F1 on AMP. What if your family was the victim of a home invasion? Or you woke up in the morgue? Or you were seriously injured miles from help? What would you do? This is actually happening. Our listeners, this is a very question, while we bring you captivating real life stories of trauma and perseverance. This is actually happening, brings listeners extraordinary true stories from the people who lived them. You'll hear stories about conflict, turmoil, or threats that dramatically alter the course of someone's life. Each episode is an exploration of the human spirit and how survivors manage to overcome hardship and move on with their lives, even thriving afterward. The new season of this is actually happening, is available ad free only with Wondry Plus. And if this new season isn't enough, you can listen to more than 120 exclusive episodes available only to Wondry Plus subscribers. Join Wondry Plus on Apple Podcasts or on the Wondry app. It's March 2007 in Southern California. Alberto Ayala is walking down a long hallway in a government building beside him as a delegation from Volkswagen. The Volkswagen officials, most of whom are German, are excited and chatty. They talk through a translator and rave about their new diesel engine. Supposedly, Volkswagen engineers have developed a diesel that's both low on air pollution and high on performance. They're making it sound like a breakthrough for the industry. They're a talkative bunch Ayala thanks to himself. Then again, if I thought I'd just reinvented the diesel engine, I'd be chatty too. All in all, it's been a very pleasant day here at the offices of the California Air Resources Board, where Carb, as it's known. Ayala would rather be doing his actual work, running the emissions testing lamps. It's his responsibility to make sure that every new car sold in California pollutes at or below legal limits. He performs elaborate tests and gets to see what exactly is coming out of Carb's tailpipes. Ayala, though, doesn't consider himself an environmental crusader. But as he sees it, cars do pollute, and the world needs experts like him to make sure such pollution doesn't get out of hand. And so part of his job means spending time on meat and greets like this one. It's critical that Carb impresses upon Volkswagen the importance of meeting air pollution limits. Ayala stops outside an open doorway alongside the representatives from Carb and Volkswagen. They're standing outside one of Ayala's labs. There's a Ford SUV inside. It's here that Ayala and his staff test air pollution coming out of tailpipes. As they enter the lab, a Carb official turns to Volkswagen's staff and explains what's about to happen. He points at a set of four metal rollers built in the concrete floor. The Ford SUV sits on these rollers. And when the time comes, Carb's staff will put Volkswagen's new diesel powered car on these very rollers. They'll start the car and hit the acceleration. But of course, the car won't go anywhere. Instead, the tires will just spin on the rollers. Large fans are set up on both sides of the car. They'll blanket the car with air to simulate real driving on a highway. And then comes the key part. A steel tube connected to the tailpipe would collect the exhaust gases, allowing Carb staff to analyze the air pollution coming from the tailpipe. And that's the test. Ayala watches as the Volkswagen representatives nod thoughtfully. And then the Carb official issues a warning. Remember, he says, we know that a lab can never completely recreate real world driving conditions. But we expect all of your emission control systems to work once outside the lab. Understood? Ayala watches the Volkswagen group intently as they absorb the warning. One man says something in German. Ayala looks to the translators who smiles politely and answers in English. Volkswagen agrees. Ayala's eyes narrow. The Volkswagen team acts polite and neutral. But Ayala is quite certain that they know what he knows. According to environmental experts, nitrogen oxide levels are much higher in Europe than they ought to be. And nitrogen oxide comes from diesel cars. Ayala has a PhD, but he doesn't think you need one to see the link. So if Volkswagen wants his help putting a diesel engine in every American garage, they'll have to prove beyond any doubt that their cars are as clean as advertised. It's April 2008 in Vienna, Austria. Martín Vinterkorn strides down a carpeted walkway towards a podium. Today, he's in the cavernous main hall at the Vienna Motor Symposium, an annual event for the auto industry. The crowd is applauding. And Vinterkorn is soaking it up. Vinterkorn sat patiently as his competitors stood at the podium and boasted of the changes they bring to the auto industry. But he knows he has them beat. He's looking forward to seeing the jealous looks on their faces as he explains why his company and not theirs will soon contra America. Vinterkorn steps up to the microphone and launches into it. He tells the audience that Volkswagen has a new diesel car. Not only is it turbocharged, it also meets the most stringent air pollution standards. Vinterkorn previews his hot new product in a room full of his competitors. He also speaks about Volkswagen's broader, socially responsible goals to protect the environment, to bring down air pollution. And when he finishes his speech, he gets even more applause, even a few cheers. Vinterkorn can tell they truly believe what he has just told him, and that's a very good thing because now, as he steps down from the podium, his damage control is complete. Vinterkorn knew that he had to deal with some recent remarks from one of his employees in charge of engine development. As Vinterkorn remembers it, the employee was speaking at a tech event in San Francisco. There, the man told the crowd that California's air quality guidelines were too restrictive. We have to be realistic, he had said, from our company, from our industry, we will do what's possible. We can do quite a bit, and we will do a bit, but impossible, we cannot do. When the employee returned to Volsberg, Vinterkorn gave him a stern lecture. He warned the man never to do that again, never to publicly undermine Volkswagen. But here in Vienna, as Vinterkorn returns to a seat, he thinks back on his employee's mistake, and he mutters to himself three words, a motto he believes, impossible doesn't exist. It's 2012 in Volsberg, Germany. Heinz Jakob Noister opens the window of his spacious corner office at Volkswagen headquarters. He returns to his desk and allows himself a moment to take in the summer air. Noister's space is neat and organized, just like him, with his close crop grey hair and thin rim glasses. Noister reflects on how far he's come in his time with Volsberg and Group. It's been several years since Vinterkorn vowed to launch the company to new heights on a wave of clean diesel engines. Volsberg finally began selling the cars, and so far sales have been very promising. As the head of engine development, it looks like Noister has a bright and prosperous future ahead of him. In his office, he leans back in his chair. There's nothing pressing at the moment. Maybe he'll even go home early. That's when he hears an urgent rap at his door. The door opens and two engineers enter. They have a number of documents in their hands. They look worried. Noister doesn't hesitate. What's wrong, he asks. They begin trying to explain. They found something, something in the US Motors. Noister stiffens. US Motors is an in house term for Volkswagen's miraculous clean diesel engines. One of the engineers swiftly closes the door and continues to describe his recent findings. Something isn't right with the diesels. They're not performing like they're supposed to. There's a huge difference between what Volkswagen says these engines do and what they actually do. If anyone outside the company discovers the truth, if anyone sees what Volkswagen has hidden, there will be a lot of explaining to do. When the engineer is done, Noister takes several moments to think. There's only one opportunity to get this right to make the correct choice. Noister is quite certain that he knows what the correct choice is. I want you to leave now. He tells the engineers and take all of this data with you. I don't want it in my office. One of the engineers asks what they should do with the data. Call and measure. Noister orders them to destroy it. In late 2012, 4,000 miles from Bolthesburg is a quiet humid night in Morgantown, West Virginia. Heymouth Kampana straightens his glasses and thoughtfully strokes his beard. He cranks up the volume on his iPod, the louder the music, the more he stays awake. Kampana likes music. He moved to this southern college town with its old red brick buildings and his gently flowing river. All he could think about was Take Me Home Country Roads by John Denver. That song was written as an ode to West Virginia. Kampana used to sing it in the bars back home. In those days, he never imagined that he'd one day actually live in West Virginia and he definitely didn't imagine himself awake at 2 a.m. in this apartment complex working on a grand proposal. Rub's eyes. The proposal must be in by 9 a.m. before class. Kampana is a graduate student and engineer. He moved to the states from Bangalore, India and soon he'll get his doctorate from West Virginia University. His fingers fly over his laptop keyboard. He has to get every word right. What he puts on paper could be the difference between his research center getting thousands of dollars or nothing. Kampana is very appreciative of what the University Research Center does for the world. He wants to do his part to bring in the money that will help it thrive. And if he succeeds, the benefit to his career and education will be enormous. When he types the final period at the end of the final sentence, he immediately picks up the phone and makes a call. Greg Thompson, the man at the other end, answers on the first ring. If he was sleeping or bothered by this middle of the night call, he doesn't show it. Thompson, an associate professor at WVU, asked if Kampana is done. And if he is, then they should go over the key point for the proposal right now. Kampana does a rapid recap. A major nonprofit is looking for projects to fund. Kampana thinks he's got one. He's requesting $200,000 to rotest an assortment of European diesel cars and their emissions technologies. The analysis would take place at WVU's Center for Alternative Fuels, Engines and Emissions, or CAFE as it's called. CAFE is all about alternative fuels. It's in the name after all. And diesel certainly qualifies as an alternative to gasoline. It would be a good idea to study the latest diesel engines getting shipped over from Europe. Cleaned easles are new to American roads, and road tests will be new for CAFE. The Center doesn't have much experience road testing passenger cars, and that must change of CAFE's to have a comprehensive understanding of emissions technology. Kampana is proud that Thompson, whose mentor, trust him with taking the lead and getting CAFE the money. While Kampana finishes reading, Thompson says the proposal sounds good and gives the okay to submit it. Kampana hangs up and collapses at his desk. He's been writing for 13 hours straight. You'll find out if his hard work paid off in about four weeks. Until then, all he can do is clean his apartment, catch up on his sleep, and cross his fingers. Kampana is walking across campus when he gets a call from Greg Thompson. Hello? Hey, Muth. What are you doing? Not much, Dr. Thompson. Just walking in class? And come to my office as soon as you can. It's time for phase two. Right. Phase two of what? The grand proposal you wrote. Kampana stops dead in his tracks, suddenly feeling jittery. What? You was approved. Kampana feels relief coursing over his body. CAFE never has enough money. This is a win and a big one. Every true scientist dreams of doing pioneering work in their field and Kampana is no different. He nearly leaps for joy. Really? They went for it. The whole 200,000. Well, no, not exactly. I mean, it wouldn't be CAFE if we had exactly what we needed, but you know, it will make it work. Kampana can't lie to himself. He's disappointed. But only a little bit. Whatever they got, it is better than nothing. He asked the all important question. Okay, so how much are they giving us? 70. 70K. I mean, well, okay, I'm not complaining, but we may want to test Audi's, BMW's, maybe Mercedes. Any one of those can easily run 70,000. You think we can really pull this off? No, well, 70 isn't even close enough. No, but what are we going to do? I know you can make it work. You and your team. My team? Yes. Congratulations, Hameth. You're about to become the foremost expert on diesel fuel in America. Maybe start with a Volkswagen. I hear their new engines are the cleanest in, and they may be a little cheaper. When Kampana hangs up, he's nervous, but excited. He starts to formulate a plan. He's going to find a Volkswagen clean diesel car. He's going to put together some emissions testing equipment and hit the open road. He can't wait to see the new Volkswagen engines up close and get a real look at how they perform. If you're into true crime, the Generation Y podcast is essential listening. We started this podcast over 10 years ago to dissect some of the craziest and most notable murders, crimes, and conspiracy theories together, and we'd love for you to join us. Generation Y is one of the longest running true crime podcasts out there, and we are still at it, unraveling a new case every week. We break down infamous cases like the Evil Genius Bank robbery, and lesser known cases like the case of Kimberly Rico. Did she actually kill her husband after they took part in a murder mystery game? We cover every angle, breaking down theories, diving deep into forensic evidence, and interviewing those close to the case. And with over 450 episodes, there's a little something for every true crime listener. Follow the Generation Y podcast on Amazon Music or every listen to podcasts, or you can listen ad free by joining Wondry Plus in the Wondry app. It's early spring 2013 in Morgantown, West Virginia. Hamath Kapana makes his way past a variety of tools and whole improvement equipment. Kapana's used to feeling focused and methodical, but tonight feels like a mad scientist. He races past an irritated employee who reminds him that this hardware store is closing in five minutes. Kapana offers a polite, yet quick wave and reply. He's on a mission. They can't leave until he gets everything he came for. He turns the corner to find his fellow West Virginia University students running toward him with a full shopping cart. One of them is holding the last piece of the puzzle, a flexible tube, about the width of a tailpipe. Inside the cart is a pile of pipes and hoses, brackets, clamps, and a plywood slab. Everything that Kapana and his partners need to begin their work. Auto pollution tests are nothing new. Car about in California has been doing them for years. The carbs never looked like this. The government agency takes cars and tests them in a laboratory. Instead of putting their car in a lab, Kapana is going to put the lab in the car. He's rigging together a mechanism that can fit inside a vehicle and stay put while that car drives on an actual road. The device will then show just how much the car is polluting in real time. What Kapana is about to do with the help of these hardware store supplies and young college students is unprecedented. And so, with the right teammates and the right gear, now all Hameth Kapana needs is the right car. A week later, Kapana and his fellow grad students are in a Los Angeles suburb, they're standing in the driveway of a renovated two story home looking at a car they've acquired. It's not so easy to find cars like this in West Virginia, but it's a different story in LA. Because here, there are a lot of cars. And it didn't take long to find a driver willing to part with his 2012 Volkswagen Passat, all for the benefit of science. The Passat is perfect for the experiment. It's a station wagon, which means more room for the equipment, and it's only been driven 15,000 miles. That means it's been broken in, but not so much that its emissions equipment is worn out. Kapana smiles and asks for the keys. It's time to see what this car and their new equipment can do. From the back of the Passat, Kapana shouts out to his colleague during the driving. Keep speeding up, during great. Kapana monitors the equipment as the car accelerates. Driver shouts back at him. If I speed up, I'm not going to blow up the car, right? Because the way that thing's going, I seriously think I'm about to blow the car up. That thing is their homemade emissions test spice. It clanks along, barely holding itself together. Clamps jut out at odd angles, cables and wires spring from the box and aggressive loops. The tube snakes from this contraption out through the side of the car, down, where it's connected to the tailpipe at the other end. This homemade laboratory is loud. The portable generator that powers it belches fumes and stinks. But so far, everything works. Kapana shouts over the racket. Just keep going, the machine's working. I think it is. I mean, you think it is. I need to pull over. I'm getting some really weird look from these other drivers, man. Kapana frowns as he analyzes the data he's getting. Well, these numbers are really weird, too. What's wrong with them? It just can't be right. What can't be right? What's wrong is that the nitrogen oxide coming out of this vehicle is off the charts. Off the charts. We tested this car in the lab at CARB. They were just fine then. No! Can't explain it. The levels are even worse now than before. I keep expecting them to average out over time, but they don't. Something's either wrong with this car, or there's something wrong with our equipment. I don't think it's our equipment. What could it be? The car. The driver looks back. Uh, telling that's not for me. Kapana sees the cop. Yep, definitely for you. Pull over. Well, you can be the one who is supporting. I'm tired of doing it. The research crew pulls off to the side of the road. It's not the first time they've been pulled over by a curious police officer. Kapana's not worried, though. Police actually tend to find this experiment intriguing. At least once it's explained to them. What he is very worried about is this data. Because if accurate, if Volkswagen's cars are polluting this much, and this isn't an isolated incident, where Volkswagen has a serious problem on his hands. One year later in March 2014, Kapana is in San Diego in a Coke and Thai, attending the real world emissions workshop. Here in the largest meeting room of the Hyatt Regency, Kapana listens as one of his WVU colleagues gives a presentation. He's detailing his team's findings about diesel engines. Kapana's been looking forward to this day for some time. At this conference, our air pollution professionals and regulators, looking out at the crowd, he sees nearly 200 concerned faces and concerned because of what his team discovered last year, while driving the Passant and other Volkswagen clean diesels. Kapana's colleague goes over the data and underscores key conclusions from the research paper the team put together. It was 117 pages, and as is customary, they did not identify the makes and models of the vehicles they assessed by name. Kapana hears audible gasps when his colleague points to a projected chart. The chart confirms that the diesel fueled vehicle A was found to have emitted nitrogen oxide at 35 times the legal limit. Vehicle B was 20 times over the limit. Kapana also hears the whispers. He knows that he's surrounded by experts and professionals and they can easily interpret these numbers and cross reference them with other clues. He's not surprised when he hears one regulator whisper to another, Vickalay is a jettah, and Bees a Passat, both Volkswagen's. You know what that means? The other nods and replies with a single word, recall. Kapana takes a sip of his drink and turns his attention back to the presentation. The man he overheard was absolutely correct. Somehow, somewhere, Volkswagen must have made an error when constructing these engines. They're not clean diesels at all. They'll have to get all these cars off the road and fast. They probably didn't even know there was a problem. But now, thanks to West Virginia University, they do. Kapana has satisfied that he and his fellow students did what they could to make air just a little more safe. Now it's time for Volkswagen to do their part, and he hopes they'll do the right thing. Days later, at the California Air Resources Board headquarters in Southern California, Alberto Ayala sits at the head of a conference room table. He speaks rapidly. The news came out of San Diego about Volkswagen's diesels, and it's bad. It's time for Karp to step up. Every second that those diesels are on the road spewing nitrogen oxides is one more moment that American public health is at greater risk. Ayala looks at the specialists he's gathered. Here's how it will go. Karp is going to initiate what they call a Volkswagen Compliance Project. They're going to perform an analysis of Volkswagen's diesels that is in depth and rigorous, more than the students at West Virginia could ever afford to do. They'll pay Volkswagen owners to borrow their cars. They'll collect a fleet of them. Then they'll test and test again until they're absolutely sure that the engines must be recalled. It's not a small thing to ask. But if Ayala's hunches are correct, he's about to cost Volkswagen tens of millions of dollars. And that's a conservative estimate. As he adjourns the meeting, he informs his specialists that the work they're about to do must be done in secret, complete confidentiality. This is a major investigation and they cannot risk outside meddling or unwanted publicity. Ayala asks himself what could have gone wrong. Seven years ago when he spoke to Volkswagen executives, they seemed so sure that they had found a way to scrub nitrogen oxides from diesel engines. And Ayala was happy for them and happy for the health of the planet. He believes there's no way Volkswagen could have done this on purpose. And yet he can't fathom what could possibly explain a car that meets legal limits in the lab, but not on the road. Well, there is one possibility, he thinks. But he's not willing to go there yet. He's not yet willing to believe that Volkswagen would go that far and stoop that low simply to make a profit. Because if they did do that, then they just put their entire company at risk. The result could be one of the biggest scandals in auto history. Next on American scandal, Volkswagen winds up in the crosshairs of American regulators who make one troubling discovery after another. The car company fortifies itself against a major confrontation to come. From Wondry, this is American scandal. Just a quick note about our reenactments. We can't always know exactly what was said, but everything in our show is based on historical research. American scandal is hosted, edited and executed produced by me, Lindsey Graham, for Airship, Sound Design by Derek Perens. This episode is written by Hannibal Diaz, edited by Hannah King's Lee Ma, produced by Gabe Riven. Executed producers are Stephanie Jenns, Jenny Lauer Beckman, and her nonlopes for Wondry.