VW emission issues extend to 75,000 more vehicles

New disclosure by carmaker on luxury cars and SUVs dating back to 2009 widens scandal

WASHINGTON • Volkswagen (VW) has told US regulators that emissions issues in larger luxury cars and sport utility vehicles (SUVs) extend to an additional 75,000 vehicles dating back to 2009, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said.

The disclosure widened the VW scandal, which had previously focused mainly on smaller-engined, mass-market cars, and raised the possibility that engineers at both the Audi and VW brands could have been involved in separate emissions schemes.

The EPA and California Air Resources Board on Nov 2 accused VW of evading emissions in at least 10,000 Audi, Porsche and VW SUVs and cars with 3-litre V-6 diesel engines. VW first denied the findings.

During a meeting on Thursday, VW and Audi officials told the EPA that the issues extend to all 3-litre diesel engines from model years 2009 to next year.

The new disclosure covers a total of 85,000 vehicles, the EPA said.

California Air Resources Board spokesman Dave Clegern said Audi admitted that the vehicles had auxiliary emissions control equipment that was not disclosed to the US government. "That should have been reported," he said, adding that the agencies are now investigating whether that constituted intentional cheating on VW's part.

Audi spokesman Brad Stertz said that the auxiliary emissions control software is legal in Europe, but that Audi did not "properly notify regulators" of the device.

"We are willing to take another crack at reprogramming to a degree that the regulators deem acceptable," Mr Stertz said.

The cost of reflashing the software is relatively minor, he added.

VW is struggling to cope with the biggest crisis of its history over its admission in September that it had fitted more than 11 million vehicles worldwide with devices designed to cheat pollution tests.

The software devices turn on pollution controls when the car is undergoing testing, and off when it is back on the road, allowing it to spew out harmful levels of nitrogen oxide.

The revelations have sparked investigations in several countries and the company is facing potentially tens of billions of dollars in fines and compensation to vehicle owners.

In addition, VW was shown earlier this month to have also understated carbon emissions for 800,000 vehicles.

The company estimated that this issue alone could cost it €2 billion (S$3 billion).

The scandal, which first broke in August, has sent the shares of the world's second-largest automaker plummeting nearly 40 per cent.

Ratings agencies have also slashed its credit rating, with Moody's saying on Nov 4 that the company's reputation and earnings were at risk from the growing scandal.

Chief executive Matthias Mueller said VW will cut investments by €1 billion next year, as the group scaled back spending to cope with the emissions scandal.

"Everything that is not necessary will be dropped or postponed," he said.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 22, 2015, with the headline 'VW emission issues extend to 75,000 more vehicles'. Print Edition | Subscribe