Volkswagen suspends Australian sales of some diesel vehicles

A new Volkswagen (VW) car is seen in the foreground as new cars of the Volkswagen group are parked ready for shipping at the car terminal of the port of Bremerhaven, northwestern Germany, on Oct 2, 2015.
A new Volkswagen (VW) car is seen in the foreground as new cars of the Volkswagen group are parked ready for shipping at the car terminal of the port of Bremerhaven, northwestern Germany, on Oct 2, 2015.PHOTO: AFP

SYDNEY, Australia (AFP) - Embattled auto giant Volkswagen on Saturday (Oct 3) suspended the sale of some diesel-powered cars in Australia as the fallout from its emissions-cheating software expanded.

Volkswagen Group Australia (VGA) said it met with government authorities on Friday “to advise them of its strategy in Australia” to address concerns raised around the world about the technology.

“In its first step, effective immediately VGA has temporarily suspended the sale of affected vehicles fitted with 1.6 or 2.0 -litre EA189 diesel engines,” it said in a statement.

“The suspension will remain until the emission issues are addressed in those vehicles,” it added, without naming the models of the vehicles affected.

Volkswagen has admitted that up to 11 million diesel vehicles worldwide are fitted with devices that can switch on pollution controls when they detect the car is undergoing testing.

They then switch off the controls when the car is on the road, allowing it to spew out harmful levels of emissions.

The Australian development comes a week after Canberra said it would ensure that any vehicles with the so-called defeat devices could not be supplied in the country as it sought urgent clarification on how many vehicles here were involved in the growing scandal.

Estimates by Fairfax Media newspapers have suggested that more than 40,000 vehicles made by Volkswagen and Volkswagen’s top-of-the-range Audi subsidiary could be fitted with the diesel engines that contain the devices.

Audi Australia said it was also temporarily suspending the sale of affected vehicles fitted with the 2.0-litre EA189 diesel engine, certified according to the European emission standard EU5.

“The suspension of sales for the Audi brand relates to the Audi A4, A5 and Q5 vehicles with a 2.0 TDI engine only,” it said in a statement. “The suspension will remain until the emission issues are addressed in those vehicles.”

Audi Australia said existing customers would be contacted in coming weeks about how their cars can be retrofitted, adding that the 1.6-litre and 2.0-litre TDI engines certified according to the new EU6 emissions standard were not affected.

Emissions cheating devices breach Australian national safety standards and the country’s consumer watchdog has warned Volkswagen could be fined up to Aus$1.1 million (S$1.1 million) for each pollution-cheating device installed and in use in the country.