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Photo: AFP
Photo: AFP

EPA expands VW diesel probe to include more 3.0-liter models

EPA expands the probe to include every Volkswagen, Audi model with a 3.0- liter diesel engine from model years 2009 through 2016

Washington/San Francisco: Volkswagen AG’s diesel-emissions scandal just got bigger.

The US Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board said Friday that the investigation has been expanded to include every Volkswagen and Audi model with a 3.0- liter diesel engine from model years 2009 through 2016 — a total of roughly 85,000 vehicles.

That comes on top of 482,000 vehicles that VW admitted in September were rigged to pass emissions tests. That revelation, concerning 2-liter diesel engines from the 2009 through 2015 model years, sparked criminal probes in Europe and the US and led to the resignation of the company’s chief executive officer. Volkswagen on Friday presented California regulators with a proposal to make those cars compliant with pollution standards.

“The most unfortunate aspect of this news, in addition to the environmental harm, is that it slows VW’s ability to move beyond the negative headlines and start the rebuilding process," said Karl Brauer, senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book, a car- buying website. “You can’t recover from a scandal while it’s still growing."

Defeat device

On 2 November, the EPA said that a few of the larger-engine models from VW, Audi and Porsche from 2014 to 2016 were found to have equipment that counted as a “defeat device," which altered emissions-control systems in a way that violated clean-air laws. Volkswagen and Audi officials said in a meeting with the EPA on Thursday that the equipment was present in models going back to 2009, the agency said.

Audi of America had previously issued a stop-sale order for the A6 Quattro, A7 Quattro, A8, A8L and Q5 models from the 2013 to 2016 model years, company spokeswoman Jeri Ward said. In the meeting, Audi told regulators the Q7 from years 2009 to 2012 had the same technology, she said.

Thursday’s meeting between company officials, EPA and the California regulators involved technical experts who talked about three pieces of equipment on the 3.0-liter engines that should have been disclosed as auxiliary emissions control devices, Ward said. According to the agencies, one of the three devices qualifies as a defeat device, she said.

Technical experts

The technology at issue is software that adjusts the temperature of the exhaust system, Ward said. While a violation under US law, the software complies with laws in Europe, she said.

Not all auxiliary emissions control devices violate US pollution laws, but they must be flagged to regulators for further evaluation. If regulators conclude that the devices’ primary purpose is to evade emissions tests, they’re considered a defeat device in violation of the law.

The meeting between company engineers and technical experts at EPA and CARB was a technical discussion “to talk through the violations so that both sides understand the data and the systems and the software," Ward said. “It’s part of the process of coming to an agreement in the end."

Audi agrees that it will need to come up with additional measures that satisfy the regulators, Ward said. The company is cooperating with the agencies and wants to continue to have productive conversations with them, she said.

Leaders of the US House Energy and Commerce Committee said the panel’s investigation into the automaker will continue. “Today’s announcement adds to the growing list of troubling questions for Volkswagen and we need answers," lawmakers, led by committee chairman Fred Upton, a Michigan Republican, said in a statement.

Volkswagen is offering owners of the 2.0-liter models $1,000 in compensation as a good-will gesture, to offset inconvenience, poorer emissions control and loss of resale value. The program doesn’t extend to the larger 3.0-liter models.

Volkswagen AG submitted its recall plan for the 2.0-liter models to regulators with the California Air Resources Board and EPA Friday, the agencies said. EPA and CARB described the submission as an “initial proposal" that both agencies will review.

“Volkswagen is committed to making things right and regaining the trust of our valued customers," Jeannine Ginivan, a spokeswoman, said in an e-mailed statement. Bloomberg

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