Credit: Michael Hendryckx

Dyson takes Bosch to court over 'VW-style' test cheating

The British engineering firm accuses German rivals of using 'control electronics' to beat EU energy consumption tests. Now why does that sound familiar?

by Adam Gale
Last Updated: 27 Apr 2016

German industrialists closing their eyes and hoping that the VW emissions scandal would either go away - or at least remain restricted to the automotive sector - have been dealt a blow today. British engineering business Dyson has accused its Teutonic rivals Bosch and Siemens of cheating on EU energy consumption tests for vacuum cleaners. Here we go again…

Dyson claims some of the two firms’ vacuum cleaners use ‘control electronics’ to increase energy usage as they suck up more dust and their bags become clogged. As EU energy consumption tests are done under lab conditions (i.e. with no dust), this means they can ace the tests despite using far more power in the real world.

‘For the purposes of the European regulations the machines are all rated at 750W, yet testing shows they can draw more than 1600W when they are used in the home, meaning the energy consumption rating can drop to an "E" or "F" rating,’ Dyson said. ‘Consumers purchasing these machines on the basis of their widely advertised stated AAAA rating are being misled.’

Dyson says its claims are based on independent testing and hopes the courts will force Bosch (which by an unhappy coincidence provided components that VW used in the emissions scandal, though Bosch denies any responsibility for how they were used) and Siemens to remove the offending labelling and stop making the claims. The two German firms issued a joint, flat denial.    

‘We do not understand these assertions by Dyson and we strenuously reject them,’ they said. ‘Appliance performance at home is consistent with laboratory performance – and any suggestion to the contrary is grossly misleading.’

The claws are most definitely out. Dyson might appear to be jumping on the bandwagon today – comments by founder Sir James Dyson that Bosch and Siemens’ behaviour is ‘akin to the VW scandal’ don’t help – but in fact it’s been highly critical of EU energy regulations for some time.

Indeed, the question of whether there actually is a difference between performance at home and in the lab should be settled next month in a European judicial review the company launched back in 2013.  

Besides, if Dyson’s bagless technology does actually use less energy in real life testing as claimed (the firm also points out that the environmental impact of its rivals using disposable bags should be factored into the ratings for good measure), then one can’t exactly blame it for trying to get fair recognition of that fact.

Whether these accusations will cause material damage to Bosch and Siemens will be decided in the courts. For now, investors don’t seem too worried – stocks in both firms rose marginally this morning.

But in either case, it doesn’t bode well for the reputation of German industry. The VW emissions scandal has introduced the corrosive element of doubt into the whole ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’ legend – what if the only thing Germans are better at engineering is test results? Claims that this applies across the manufacturing sector will only make matters worse.

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