CALIFORNIA regulators have slammed Volkswagen’s plan to recall vehicles fitted with devices designed to cheat emissions tests, saying it is “incomplete” and falls “far short” of what needs to be done.
Air Resources Board (ARB) chief of emissions compliance division Annette Herbert said the company’s submissions for how it planned to fix the problem in its vehicles were “incomplete, substantially deficient and fall far short of meeting the legal requirements to return these vehicles to the claimed certified configuration.”
A separate document made public from the negotiations said Volkswagen’s plans to fix the huge problem they created for Califorinia air quality “contain gaps and lack sufficient detail” with not enough technical information to ensure they will succeed.
It’s another major blow for the beloved car brand that shocked the world when it revealed millions of cars were fitted with a “defeat device” in order to cheat emissions tests.
“Volkswagen made a decision to cheat on emissions tests and then tried to cover it up,” said Air Resources Board Chair Mary Nichols.
“They continued and compounded the lie, and when they were caught, they tried to deny it. The result is thousands of tons of nitrogen oxide that have harmed the health of Californians. They need to make it right. Today’s action is a step in the direction of assuring that will happen.”
The rejection letter doesn’t rule out an eventual recall plan for owners of the 75,688 affected 2.0-litre diesel cars in California including Jetta SportWagen, Beetles, Golfs, Passats and Audi from certain years.
But it does prolong the limbo for drivers who bought the diesels under the false impression that they were getting a cleaner engine along with a more powerful car and better mileage and who have been waiting for a path forward since the scandal unfolded last September.
The action also leaves the possibility of a buyback for VW owners.
The Air Resources Board said the plan was ineffective as it did not take the right steps to identify affected vehicles, demonstrate ways to collect owners names and addresses or show how the change made to cars would impact on emissions in future.
The state agency also issued a formal notice against the German automaker, alleging its deception and failure to propose a timely solution had violated the state’s clean air regulations and “fundamentally undercut” efforts to protect residents from harmful pollutants.
That finding will likely mean future fines for VW as the investigation continues. The ARB is working to quantify the damage done by cars spewing out more nitrous oxide than claimed, said David Clegern, an agency spokesman.
“How many more people suffered asthma attacks? How many more people died early?” he said. “It’s not just about vehicles, it’s about public health and the environment as well.”
The US Environmental Protection Agency is conducting its own separate investigation and said it agreed with the ARB findings.
The rejection only applies to 2.0-litre diesel engines registered in California and a separate plan for 3.0 litre engines including some Audi and Porsche brands is due next month.
Volkswagen said it would continue to work with regulators and a recall is still possible.
“Today’s announcement addresses the initial recall plans Volkswagen submitted … in December,” the statement read. “Since then, Volkswagen has had constructive discussions with [the California ARB], including last week when we discussed a framework to remediate the emissions issue.”
It comes as VW global head Matthias Mueller met with Environmental Protection Agency officials in Washington on Wednesday.
Both parties remained tight lipped on the deal, however Mr Mueller had earlier said he planned to present ideas for how the company could fix the diesel engines.
EPA boss Gina McCarthy has previously said she was “anxious” to find a way for the company to get into the US compliance system.
Last week, the US Justice Department filed a suit that could lead VW to face more than $20 billion worth of fines under the Clean Air Act with additional civil penalties. A separate criminal investigation is underway.
The US Justice Department has filed a suit against Volkswagen for allegedly violating the Clean Air Act.
Numerous private class-action lawsuits filed by VW owners are pending.