After years of promoting clean-burning diesel in its four-cylinder vehicles, Volkswagen’s house-of-cards scheme came crashing down in September 2015. This is when the automaker revealed that it had been cheating emissions tests.
Rather than building a better, more energy efficient diesel car, the German auto manufacturer instead designed and installed a software system that would beat U.S. and international emissions tests. This way the manufacturer made it seem as if its diesel vehicles were fuel efficient when in fact they not. Turns out, those vehicles were polluting at levels that far exceeded normal range outputs. More than half a million vehicles were affected. Those vehicle models include: Jetta (TDI and SportWagen models) Golf TDI, Beetle (TDI and Convertible TDI) and Passat TDI. Even some Audi and Porsche models were also affected.
VW is in the works to fix the polluting diesel vehicles
Needless to say, the scandal has been disastrous to Volkswagen. Sales and revenue for the company have plummeted in the past year. Its reputation as an environmentally conscious auto manufacturer has been profoundly damaged. Recovering from the misdeed will be a long road. One of the first steps in this journey relates to VW car repair and fixing the emissions error. Yet so far this has proven to be problematic for a number of reasons.
When the emissions cheating scandal came to light, it was noted that the vehicles were as safe to drive as ever. For this reason, recalls for VW repair were not issued. In other words, the “defeat device” software that VW put into its vehicles to allows them to “pass” emissions did not impact vehicle’s operability.
VW issues billion-dollar buy-back and “modification” program
Though safety wasn’t a concern, Volkswagen was cited by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for federal emissions violations. VW has pleaded guilty to all charges. To try to make things right, VW is working to roll out a far-reaching buy-back and VW repair program to its customers.
Under the elaborate buy-back program, owners of affected vehicles will be able to sell them back to VW for a set price. Exact model and pricing details for the program can be found here. It is estimated that Volkswagen will spend upwards of $14 billion to resolve this problem. It seems the only way is to either buy back certain model vehicles or performing repairs on others.
Standard VW repairs can’t fix the problem – yet
At the moment, there is no standard VW repair option where drivers can take their so-called “cheaty” vehicles to a local repair shop to be serviced. Removing the cheating system would simply reveal the true level of pollutants that the vehicle has been emitting all along. Volkswagen does currently have an on the table an offer to “modify” affected vehicles so that they will meet emissions standards. However, no immediate VW service is being offered either.
VW is saying it may take until 2018 to devise and implement an actual repair or mechanical solution to the problem. To put it mildly, it remains to be seen whether a VW service or “modification” will fix the emissions issue. If the manufacturer does come up with a repair to fix the problem, it has agreed to cover the costs. This includes all the costs of all services and repairs as well as pay restitution to the vehicle owner. VW mechanics will be trained on how to perform the modification or VW car repair.
The fix gets tricky in California
Issuing these VW auto repairs in the state of California is even more complicated. California has the nation’s toughest emissions standards. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has started partnering with Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche to test the emissions of so-called fixed vehicles with poor results. The auto manufacturer has truly struggled to produce a viable and lasting VW repair or modification to the problem that meets CA standards.
Much skepticism and doubt by CARB and other environmental experts exists regarding whether any repair or modification will be able to fix the car at all. There is an implicit understanding that if VW had a mechanically sound solution to their high emission diesel vehicles, they would have implemented it in the first place thereby negating the need to create a cheat device.
VW service fix works in Europe where emission requirements are lower
In Europe a “flow transformer” device has been created and installed in affected models enabling the vehicles to produce emissions that meet pollutant levels. Yet because the U.S. and particularly California has higher standards, the VW service involving the modified transformer does not sufficiently reduce emissions levels. CARB recently denied a few other “fixes” issued by the automaker stating that the touted VW service did not sufficiently meet emissions standards.
According to some reports, the debate between CARB and Volkswagen has gotten contentious. Refusing to be duped again, the Board called the company’s proposed modification or VW repair, “incomplete, substantially deficient, and falling far short of meeting legal requirements.” Implicit in the Board’s harsh language was the suggestion that perhaps Volkswagen wasn’t capable of designing, creating or manufacturing a real and viable VW repair to the emissions problem.
For the U.S., it remains to be seen whether or not the German auto manufacturer will be able to come up with a fix for the high emissions problem. In the end, it may be that the buyback option is the only feasible one – especially for California.