Calif. deadline looms for Volkswagen emissions fix

Volkswagen seems to be waiting until the last minute to file its 3.0-liter repair California repair plan for its six-cylinder Audi engines.

Volkswagen continued today to play a game of brinksmanship as it has yet to file a repair plan for 80,000 diesel SUVs and cars, equipped with 3.0-liter V-6 powerplants. With the deadline swiftly approaching, the automaker yesterday had still not responded publicly to a California Air Resources Board (CARB) ruling. The decision gave Volkswagen and its subsidiaries until Feb. 2 to file a plan to fix 80,000 V-6-equipped vehicles.

David Clegern, a spokesman for CARB, declined to indicate whether the carmaker had met the deadline. “We expect to update the situation” Tuesday, he said. A spokesman for Audi of America, whose 80,000 3.0-liter-equipped vehicles were affected by the CARB action, also declined comment.

Indeed, the automaker gave no indication of any action it might take even as the deadline loomed. A Reuters report indicated yesterday that VW, not only facing the Feb. 2 showdown with CARB and, apparently the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which is working with the state regulators. On Jan. 12, CARB and EPA rejected a plan to fix vehicles with smaller diesel powerplants. At that time, Volkswagen was responding to requests from regulators to provide a fix for 588,000 vehicles equipped with engines based on the EA 189 block. The engines involved were primarily 1.2-, 1.6- and 2.0-liter powerplants.

Regulators required the plan in response to Volkswagen’s September admission that it had cheated on emissions testing by providing a “defeat switch” that turned on and off “passing mode” as needed on EA 189-based engines. About a week after its admission that it had cheated on the four-cylinder engines, VW admitted it had used the same software on its 3.0-liter V-6 engines. The V-6 powers Audi vehicles primarily. Those vehicles include:

On last month’s rejection of the four-cylinder plan, Clegern said CARB found it “substantially deficient.” After that rejection, CARB “shifted the case onto a broader field,” the board spokesman said. By changing gears, regulators believed they could “discuss settlement terms beyond a recall – buyback, mitigation,” for example. Indeed, at a Jan. 21 hearing, VW’s lawyer, Robert Guiffra, indicated a buyback is possible “that that hasn’t been determined yet,” said a court transcript.

Meantime, until the carmaker submits the plan, diesel vehicles remain in a sales stop. The stop bars the sale of diesel cars in the U.S. And, the EPA is continuing to hold “ongoing technical discussions” with VW. An EPA spokesman, Laura Allen, said yesterday that they were talking about “potential solutions for the 2.0-liter vehicles in parallel with” federal court actions. On Jan. 4, the Department of Justice filed civil racketeering charges against the automaker, seeking up to $46 billion in damages for the emissions violations.

Ironically, just last week, Volkswagen received approval of a plan to fix 8.5 million vehicles in Europe.