After Volkswagen was caught cheating diesel emissions tests in 2015, one of the first actions its engineers took was to launch a secret project: to obtain cars from rival manufacturers and conduct tests on their emissions. Its aim was to find evidence of widespread cheating across the industry, so guilt could be spread around and penalties diluted, say two people inside the company. The Volkswagen Scandal, in other words, might helpfully become the Car Scandal. Vehicles from Fiat, Hyundai and others were tested for harmful nitrogen oxide emissions by VW engineers from late 2015 to early 2016. The engineers had a simple conundrum: VW had just admitted to equipping 11 million cars with software to detect laboratory tests and enable them to enter a low-emissions mode. If VW’s best engineers found regulations so onerous that they resorted to deliberate fraud, what had its rivals done? A third person in the company insists there was a more innocent explanation for the tests. Engineers un...

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