“Volkswagen informed us last week that these many vehicles in India are in the zone of consideration for looking into whether they are affected," Ambuj Sharma, additional secretary in the department of heavy industries, said in a phone interview on Wednesday. “They said these vehicles have engines from the EA 189 family."
These engines are fitted across models of Volkswagen, Skoda and Audi cars, Sharma said.
These engines, Volkswagen has admitted in the US and Europe, contain a software designed to fool emissions tests in those geographies.
An auto industry executive who spoke on condition of anonymity said that if the so-called defeat devices are fitted in these engines and if they are active, Volkswagen may have to face “severe repercussions" under Indian laws.
“If they are found guilty, then it is like a criminal case," this person added.
The defeat device allows cars to pass emission control tests by showing much lower levels of pollution than when they are in ordinary use. In the US, it was found that emission levels of VW diesel cars were 40 times higher than the level allowed in that country.
Volkswagen cars sold in the US were built to meet Euro VI norms, which are also followed in the countries that have come forward to initiate a probe against the automaker. In India, passenger vehicles comply with Euro IV norms even when the suitable fuel is only available in the top 50 cities. The rest of the country gets Euro III fuel.
Sharma told Press Trust of India (PTI) that India’s apex vehicle testing agency, Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI), has issued a “show cause notice" to the Indian unit of the German company as the testing agency has found significant variations in on-road emission levels in the diesel models of Volkswagen Jetta, Skoda Octavia, Audi A4 and Audi A6.
Volkswagen Group India in a statement confirmed that it had received a notice from ARAI and would respond to it by 30 November.
“It was agreed with the Government of India that Volkswagen Group India will present its results from the evaluations regarding the diesel engine emissions topic by the end of November 2015. The next steps would depend on the findings from these evaluations," the statement said.
A company spokesperson declined to comment on the number of vehicles fitted with the controversial engine.
On 25 September, Mint reported that the government had written to ARAI to evaluate Volkswagen cars and check if the automobile maker used the defeat device to fudge emissions data in India. ARAI is also investigating if Volkswagen models recalled in the US and Europe are also sold in India.
The testing agency’s director Rashmi Urdhwareshe did not respond to phone calls. She told PTI on Wednesday that ARAI had sought a clarification from Volkswagen through the notice.
“We will decide the future course of action based on their reply and the technical inputs from their German headquarters," PTI quoted her as saying.
In September, Volkswagen admitted to the irregularities concerning a particular software used in diesel engines in “some 11 million vehicles worldwide".
Matthias Müller, the newly appointed chief executive officer of Volkswagen AG, said the company will start a global recall of the affected vehicles in January, and the process will be completed by the end of 2016.
An auto industry consultant said that even if Volkswagen cars are found to have been fitted engines containing the defeat device and need to be recalled, it is unlikely to have an impact on the automaker’s business in the country.
“Frankly, Indian customers are unlikely to be bothered about a recall caused by emissions," the expert said on condition of anonymity. “Also, recalls are no more a taboo in India. They keep happening every time. So, I don’t see any impact on the brand as such."
Since July 2012, when the Indian auto industry adopted a voluntary recall code, as many as 1.3 million cars and bikes have been recalled in the country.