Feds OK fix for polluting Volkswagen diesels

Keith Laing
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — Federal and California regulators have approved Volkswagen’s proposed fix for thousands of diesel cars that were rigged to cheat federal emission standards.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) said Thursday that they have approved Volkswagen’s fix for 326,000 two-liter diesels that were made between 2009 and 2014. Affected models include 2009-2014 Jettas, 2010 to 2014 Golfs, 2012 to 2014 Beetles, and 2010 to 2013 Audi A3 vehicles.

The agencies said Volkswagen will update the hardware and software of its diesel cars to make them compliant with federal emission standards, giving drivers who have previously been offered buy backs the option to keep their cars if they wish.

“VW will remove the defeat device software that reduced emission control effectiveness in all but emissions testing circumstances, and replace it with software that directs the emission controls to function effectively in all typical vehicle operations,” the agencies said in a statement. “VW will also replace the NOx catalyst and for 2009 models certain other emission control system hardware.

The agencies added: “VW will thoroughly identify any differences in vehicle attributes (such as fuel economy) so owners may make an informed choice.”

Volkswagen said in a statement, “This important milestone means that an approved emissions modification is now available for more than 98 percent of eligible 2.0L TDI vehicles in the United States.”

Volkswagen has been under fire from U.S. regulators since the company admitted in 2015 to programming its diesel cars to trick emissions testers into believing the engines released far less pollution into the air than they actually do, in violation of the federal Clean Air Act. Regulators have said that in normal driving they emitted up to 40 times more smog-causing nitrogen oxide than the legal limit.

The U.S. government has indicted six present and former Volkswagen executives and charged the company with three criminal felony counts for what regulators called a 10-year conspiracy to rig hundreds of thousands of diesel cars to cheat U.S. emission standards.

Volkswagen is also being forced to pay $2.8 billion in criminal fines and $1.5 billion in civil penalties related to the fraud. In addition to the fines, the beleaguered German automaker has agreed to pay $14.7 billion to fix or buy back about 475,000 rigged 2-liter diesel vehicles on top of a $1.2 billion deal that covered 78,000 additional 3-liter cars.

The emission-cheating scheme has cost Volkswagen more than $20 billion in fines and settlements, in addition to goodwill among some U.S. drivers.

Volkswagen said after receiving approval for the 2-liter fix Thursday “eligible customers will be notified that they can receive a modification free of charge at their preferred dealership if they want to keep their vehicles.”


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Twitter: @Keith_Laing