Your rigged VW will get fixed between now and 2048

Chris Reiter
Bloomberg News

Volkswagen AG will need to speed up its recall of rigged diesel engines in Germany dramatically to finish within a year as planned, because at the current rate the process won’t be done before 2048.

Since starting repairs to 2.4 million affected cars in its home country three weeks ago, Volkswagen has fixed 4,300 vehicles. That’s a rate of about 1,400 autos a week, when more than 46,000 would need to be processed weekly for the company to finish within a year.

The sluggish pace at which the recall has progressed highlights the huge logistical challenge facing the company: Fixes must be devised for different car types and engines, customers notified, appointments scheduled. Still, Volkswagen is a step ahead in Germany compared with the impasse it’s enduring in the U.S., where authorities have yet to sign off on a technical fix after throwing out previous proposals by company engineers.

Volkswagen said the work is going according to plan, with the processing of more than half the affected Amarok pickups showing the system works. The pace of repairs will ramp up quickly when the callback is expanded to the Passat sedan and similar models in March, said Pietro Zollino, a spokesman. The company hasn’t disclosed who devised and covered up the software designed to cheat on emissions tests that was installed in 11 million vehicles worldwide.

The automaker is sticking to its goal of completing most of the repairs by the end of this year, depending on the customer response, Zollino said. The recall is mandatory in Germany, meaning owners could have their registration revoked if they don’t comply.

The namesake VW brand accounts for more than half the affected cars, some 1.4 million vehicles. That means the brand’s 2,150 service centers in Germany need to repair an average of about 650 autos apiece. Most need only a software update that takes less than half an hour. Vehicles with 1.6-liter engines also get a tube that’s supposed to regulate air flow, requiring the car to be in the shop for less than 45 minutes.

The world’s second-largest automaker started with the low-volume Amarok because the vehicles are fairly uniform, making the repairs easier to manage. There are slight differences to the fixes depending on engine size and specification as well as the type of transmission, and each needs to be approved by German regulator KBA, Volkswagen said.

While there are three sizes of affected diesel engines, there are more than a dozen variations to the repairs, and the recalls will be rolled out in waves for each cluster of vehicle, according to Volkswagen. The recall includes Audi, Skoda and Seat models as well as VW-brand vehicles.