Volkswagen Diesel Emissions Fix Plan Demanded By Nov. 20 in California
California officials have provided a deadline for Volkswagen to detail plans for a diesel emissions fix in vehicles that were intentionally designed to cheat on emissions testing, allowing their “Clean Diesel” vehicles to release unacceptably high levels of pollution.
The California Air Resources Board (CARB) informed Volkswagen late last week that it has until November 20 to provide a plan for fixing TDI diesel vehicles sold in recent years, providing 45 days from an in-use compliance letter the state sent the company on September 18.
Volkswagen has admitted that it installed software known as a “defeat device” on a total of 11 million vehicles sold worldwide, including about 482,000 in the United States, which caused the vehicles to reduce emissions only while it is being tested.
Last month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took action that led to a Volkswagen TDI diesel recall, impacting various VW Jetta, VW Golf, VW Beetle, VW Passat and Audi A3 vehicles equipped with TDI diesel engines since 2009.
Earlier this month, VW Chief Executive Matthias Mueller told German media that it would begin updating the software and fixing the vehicles in January, with all recall repairs expected to be complete by the end of next year. However, it is unclear whether that schedule will apply to vehicles sold in the U.S., as Volkswagen has to meet more stringent standards set by the EPA.
The EPA says the company could face up to $18 billion in fines, and it’s previous CEO and a number of other key company employees have stepped down or been fired as a result.
It is unclear what penalties would be incurred against VW if it fails to meet the CARB demands. The state carries considerable power, being the eighth largest economy in the world; outranking even some first-world countries.
VW Emission Problems Deepen
Shares for VW have dropped by a third since the scandal began, with many accusing the company of gross hypocrisy given its claim to be devoted to environmental standards. Some experts predict the company will show a loss for its auto division this year.
In addition to fines, loss of stock value, and the actual cost of recalling and fixing the affected vehicles, not to mention likely damage to sales of new vehicles, the company also faces a growing number of Volkswagen diesel emissions lawsuits.
In the U.S., dozens of lawsuits by Volkswagen owners have already been filed, and Texas has joined West Virginia in filing class action lawsuits to force the company to reimburse citizens in its state who bought the vehicles at a premium believing they were better for the environment.
A number of plaintiffs have requested that lawsuits filed nationwide in federal courts be consolidated for pretrial proceedings as part of a Volkswagen diesel recall MDL, or multidistrict litigation.
In addition, the Texas Attorney General is just one of 45 state AGs involved in a probe against the company, and Volkswagen executives were brought before the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s subcomittee on Oversight and investigations last week and grilled over the incident.
Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton said information indicated that the CEO of Volkswagen’s U.S. branch knew about the problem a year and a half ago, but did nothing.
“There’s a lot we still do not know about Volkswagen’s actions, or their motivations, in attempting to skirt emissions standards. But regardless of intent, they have betrayed the trust of regulators, dealers, and, most importantly, the driving public,” Chairman Upton said in a prepared statement (PDF). “VW will inevitably pay a steep price for its dirty little secret. How it responds to this failure will go a long way to rebuilding, or further eroding, the public’s trust.”
Horn admitted knowing there was a problem in 2014 in his testimony (PDF) to the subcommittee, but said he was told that the engineers were working on a fix. However, the company has stated that it has yet to develop a fix for the problem, and he did not know its true nature until September of this year.
“These events are deeply troubling. I did not think that something like this was possible at the Volkswagen Group. We have broken the trust of our customers, dealerships, and employees, as well as the public and regulators,” Horn testified..”Let me be clear, we at Volkswagen take full responsibility for our actions and we are working with all relevant authorities in a cooperative way. I am here to offer the commitment of Volkswagen AG to work with this Committee to understand what happened, and how we will move forward.”
The EPA is still investigating the full extent of the emissions software cheating scandal, suggesting that the same software was installed in 2016 vehicles not covered by the initial recall.
Volkswagen officials stated that they intend to withdraw applications for emissions certifications for 2016 Jetta, Golf, Passat, and Beetle vehicles with TDI diesel engines.
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