EPA forces VW to correct gas mileage on 98,000 vehicles

Keith Laing
The Detroit News

Washington — Volkswagen Group of America has agreed to a $96.5 million settlement with owners who sued over incorrect fuel economy ratings of certain 2013-2017 models.

The German automaker's U.S. subsidiary said Friday said the agreement covers about 98,000 vehicles — 3.5% of its cars from the four-year span — that will have its fuel-economy ratings restated to reflect a discrepancy of 1 mile per gallon. The cars are all gasoline models, but were equipped with software similar to defeat devices used in Volkswagen's diesel cars to cheat federal emission devices. 

The settlement covers the following vehicles: 

  • 2013-2016 Audi A8L
  • 2013-2016 Audi S8
  • 2014-2016 Audi RS7
  • 2013-2017 Bentley Continental GT 
  • 2013-2014 Bentley Continental GTC
  • 2014-2016 Bentley Flying Spur
  • 2015-2017 Bentley Continental GT Convertible 
  • 2013-2014, 2016 Porsche Cayenne
  • 2013-2014, 2016 Porsche Cayenne GTS
  • 2013-2016 Porsche Cayenne S
  • 2013-2014, 2016 Porsche Cayenne Turbo
  • 2013-2014 Volkswagen Touareg
  • 2017 Volkswagen Tiguan 4MOTION

Eligible owners will receive payments ranging from $5.40 to $24.30 for each month their vehicle has owned or leased. 

The EPA is making Volkswagen as well as Audi, Porsche and Bentley correct fuel economy labels for about 98K gasoline-powered vehicles.

Volkswagen also said it will adjust its greenhouse gas credits with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to account for any excess credits associated with the fuel economy discrepancy. The company will not be required to admit any wrongdoing as part of the settlement 

“Volkswagen is committed to providing customers with transparent fuel economy data for our vehicles, in line with U.S. labeling requirements,” Pietro Zollino, executive vice president of communications for Volkswagen Group of America, said in a statement.

The EPA said in a statement Friday the discrepancy in Volkswagen's fuel economy ratings was discovered during the high-profile probe into environmental performance of the German's automaker's diesel vehicles. 

"In the course of the investigation concerning defeat devices in Volkswagen’s diesel vehicles, the EPA and the California Air Resources Board discovered that the company employed software to manage vehicle transmissions in gasoline vehicles," the agency said. 

"This software causes the transmission to shift gears during the EPA-prescribed emissions test in a manner that sometimes optimizes fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions during the test, but not under normal driving conditions," the EPA statement continued. "The company employed this software in roughly one million gasoline, light-duty vehicles from model years 2013 through 2017 sold by Volkswagen in the United States under the brand names Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche and Bentley." 

The EPA said it required Volkswagen to estimate the emissions and fuel economy impact of the software through extensive testing and other methods.

"Based on these investigations, Volkswagen found that, deactivation of the software resulted in an impact to fuel economy on roughly 98,000 vehicles of approximately one mile per gallon," the agency said. 

The earlier diesel investigation resulted in six of the German automaker's present and former executives being indicted, and VW itself was charged with three criminal felony counts for what regulators called a 10-year conspiracy to rig hundreds of thousands of diesel cars to evade U.S. emission standards.

Volkswagen was forced to pay $2.8 billion in criminal fines and $1.5 billion in civil penalties related to the fraud.

That’s in addition to a $14.7 billion settlement the company reached last year with the EPA that calls for Volkswagen to spend $10 billion to either buy back or repair about 475,000 2-liter diesel cars sold between 2009 and 2015; the company also was required to contribute $4.7 billion to federal efforts to reduce pollution.