The chief of Volkswagen is apologizing after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says the automaker used software to rig emissions tests for about 500,000 TDI diesel vehicles. The automaker is also issuing a sales halt for all of the impacted vehicles which include the Audi A3, VW Jetta, Beetle, Golf and Passat models. Meanwhile, the company’s stock slid Monday following late Friday’s revelations.
Here’s what the EPA says happened. The regulatory agency claims VW software rigged the testing by allowing its diesel cars to release fewer smog-causing pollutants during testing than they release in real-world driving conditions. The issue came to light when the International Council on Clean Transportation tested the vehicles.
“I personally am deeply sorry that we have broken the trust of our customers and the public,” Volkswagen chief Martin Winterkorn said in a statement over the weekend. “We will cooperate fully with the responsible agencies, with transparency and urgency, to clearly, openly, and completely establish all of the facts of this case. Volkswagen has ordered an external investigation of this matter.
Test results impact cars built in the last seven years, and they include the Audi A3, VW Jetta, Beetle, Golf and Passat models. The agency ordered VW to fix the cars at its own expense. VW could also be fined billions of dollars.
Not too long ago, VW edged out Toyota to become the world’s top automaker for the first have of 2015. That was quite a feat given VW hasn’t done well in the US lately because it didn’t have a big offering of SUVs and that’s what many American buyers want right now. It’ll be interesting to see if the recent revelations over its diesel emissions testing have an impact on sales. While some drivers are reportedly furious, it takes a lot to really alienate buyers. We saw that with GM’s faulty ignition switch recall which really didn’t have an impact on overall sales.
As for Volkswagen, the diesel-powered cars account for about 25 percent of sales and VW marketed them as being better for the environment. After the EPA announcement, the automaker pulled its 2015 diesel cars with 2.0-liter engines from dealer lineups, according to a person familiar with the matter who requested anonymity.
The one thing VW can be grateful about is that the violations aren’t a safety hazard. The cars are ok to drive until they can be recalled to fix the problem. The recall process could take up to a year.