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70,000 diesel VWs get approval for a fix requiring software, hardware updates

Megan Geuss
Nearly a year and a half has passed since the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) publicly announced that Volkswagen had cheated on its federally-required emissions tests for 2.0L diesel vehicles produced between 2009 and 2015. And, just today, the EPA and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) announced the first fix that could make street-legal the 475,474 diesels that were caught up in the scandal.
Unfortunately, the fix only pertains to 70,000 “Generation 3” diesels from VW Group, all of which were made in 2015. The rest of the 405,000-or-so customers with older 2.0L diesels will have to keep waiting for a fix, unless they want to sell their cars back to Volkswagen.
The news of the fix comes months after the approval of a $15 billion settlement between VW Group and the Justice Department. That settlement set aside approximately $10 billion to buy back 2.0L diesels at the price the cars were worth before the scandal was made public, as well as compensate each purchaser with somewhere between $5,100 and $10,000, depending on the make and model of the car.
But the settlement also provided another option for owners—if they didn’t want to sell their car back to VW Group, they could have the car fixed, provided that CARB and the EPA approved the fix. That option has proven to be more difficult in practice because, according to the settlement, VW Group has to not only dramatically reduce the release of nitrogen oxide (NOx) from the diesel engines, but also minimize wear and tear on the engine while still providing gas mileage close to what the car experienced before the fix.
According to the EPA, the fix for the 70,000 Generation 3 cars will be carried out in two waves: the first wave is ready to be deployed today and involves a software update that will “remove the defeat device software and replace it with software that directs the emission controls to function effectively in all typical vehicle operation.” The second wave will be ready “about a year from now.” Per the EPA, it will involve a further software update as well as “a new diesel particulate filter, diesel oxidation catalyst, and NOx catalyst.”
The cars that are able to take advantage of this fix are Volkswagen’s 2015 diesel Beetle, Beetle Convertible, Golf, Golf SportWagen, Jetta, and Passat, as well as Audi’s 2015 diesel A3.
What’s remarkable is that the EPA and CARB are claiming that this fix will not only curb excess emissions by 80 to 90 percent, but that the fix “will not affect vehicle fuel economy, reliability, or durability.”
“EPA and CARB confirmed those conclusions through independent testing and analysis at their own laboratories,” the EPA wrote in a press release.
Even if a fix is costly, it’s in VW Group’s interest to find ways to bring their cars inline with US emissions regulations so the company can reduce the cost, even by a small amount, of purchasing back cars from customers who don’t want their diesels fixed. The June settlement with the Department of Justice stated that VW Group cannot resell cars with defeat devices on them after the automaker has bought them back from customers—even in other countries where emissions regulations may be less strict. But if VW Group can repair the cars it purchases back from customers to remove the defeat devices and meet greener standards, that restriction against reselling in other markets is lifted.
The news that 70,000 of VW Group’s cars are fixable comes along with a report from the Wall Street Journal. The report cites anonymous sources who say that VW Group and the Justice Department may soon reach a settlement in an expected criminal case based on a investigation of the German company by American Justice Department officials. The settlement could involve a payout of several billion dollars in addition to what VW Group has already paid, the WSJ reports. Criminal charges could include “wire fraud and misleading government officials,” a source told the paper.
Thus far, only one individual, former VW Group engineer James Liang, has been named in a criminal case involving the diesel emissions scandal.
70,000 diesel VWs get approval for a fix requiring software, hardware updates Reviewed by Chidinma C Amadi on 11:06 PM Rating: 5

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