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U.S. closes probe into 240,000 diesel VW vehicles

David Shepardson
Detroit News Washington Bureau

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administrations said Tuesday it is closing a nearly 5-year-old investigation into 241,000 diesel powered Volkswagen vehicles without demanding a recall.

The agency said it was closing the probe into the 2009-12 Jetta, Golf, Touareg, Audi A3 and Q7 TDI clean diesel vehicles after nearly 800 complaints about high-pressure fuel pump failures causing contamination of the fuel system. VW in 2013 agreed to voluntarily install devices designed to prevent owners from misfueling their diesel vehicles.

NHTSA opened the probe in 2010 and upgraded it in February 2011 to an engineering analysis after 160 complaints. NHTSA said VW has not identified any design or manufacturing defects in the pumps and said they “were designed, tested and approved for use in the United States market, with substantial design margins for fuels that are out of specification. Volkswagen believes that misfueling with gasoline is the primary cause” of problems.

VW only built the devices to prevent owners from using gasoline instead of diesel fuel. NHTSA said its analysis shows “most failures do not result in engine stall while driving and, when pump drivetrain failure does result in stall while driving, it is usually preceded by numerous warning symptoms... The failure data for the subject vehicles show relatively low stalling rates (less than one percent at three years in service) for each of the pump designs used in the subject vehicles. There have been no reports of crashes, injuries or fatalities related to the alleged defect.”

Separately, NHTSA said last week it is opening a new investigation into 30,000 2012 VW Passat and CC cars after nine reports from consumers alleging electronic defects that could result in loss of connectivity of the steering wheel electrical devices, potentially affecting the performance of the driver side air bag, as well as the other steering wheel mounted components.

“Consumer reports indicate that failures occur during normal driving conditions and are sometimes accompanied by an audible noise from the steering column,” NHTSA said.

DShepardson@detroitnews.com