Following an independent investigation, Volkswagen has admitted installing “defeat devices” in as many as 11 million diesel engines in car models 2009 to 2015 Golf, Passat, Beetle and Jetta. The engines are also in some Audi A3 vehicles. The devices enabled the cars to pass emission tests while, in normal operation, spewing 40 times more than the legal amount of pollution-causing nitrogen oxide.
The result has been a total freeze on all new and some used VW diesel-engine cars. The Environmental Protection Agency has refused to certify the 2016 line of VW diesels and the company has issued a stop-sell order to its dealers, preventing them from selling new diesel cars and certified ones.
In testimony before Congress earlier this month, VW U.S. CEO Michael Horn said bringing the cars into compliance with regulations could require changes to hardware, software, or both, depending on the model.
Roughly 325,000 vehicles in the U.S. may require the addition of SCR urea-injection systems, which other carmakers have used since 2009 to meet U.S. diesel emissions standards.Volkswagen owners who wish to check if their vehicle is one affected can use a Volkswagen VIN Look-up tool to check if their vehicle is in the database.
On other models, simple software changes could eliminate the “cheat” program that allowed cars to operate differently under testing conditions – something analysts believe will affect fuel economy and performance. Testers have noticed a lower fuel economy and slower acceleration when the cheating software was disabled.
This is definitely bad news for VW diesel owners. Aside from being scammed by VW and the resell value of their vehicles significantly decreasing, if owners abide by the recall, their cars will not perform in the same way they did before. The “clean diesel” cars they paid more for are now costing them more than they bargained for. Some owners are considering not having their car recalled or reprogrammed or retrofitted in any way due to not wanting to decrease the performance of their vehicle.
One thing to note is that “mandatory recall” does not mean that it is mandatory for owners to fix their vehicles. It means that VW as the manufacturer has been ruled by the government to issue a recall. It is voluntary for consumers unless you live in a state, such as California, that may decide to force the changes or they will block car registration.
Volkswagen almost inevitably will have to compensate owners of diesel cars equipped with emissions-rigging software. Some legal experts say the automaker could be forced to buy back the cars altogether. There is talk of class action lawsuits that may be forming.
Update 11/17/2015: VW has released a public statement offering a $500 gift certificate to owners of vehicles affected by the emissions scandal. Customers must submit their request for a “Goodwill Package” on Volkswagen’s emissions update website. According to the letter sent to customers, they are “not required to waive their legal rights or release their claims against Volkswagen Group of American in order to receive the package.”