EPA asks Volkswagen to build electrics at Chattanooga

EPA has reportedly asked Volkswagen to build electric cars in Chattanooga as a way to atone for the Dieselgate emissions scandal.

Regulators are asking Volkswagen for a major give-back in the wake of the Dieselgate emissions scandal. According to a story, Sunday in the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has asked VW to build electric cars at the automaker’s plant in Chattanooga, Tenn. The newspaper said that agency had asked the automaker to build the vehicles to make up for its role in the emissions rigging scandal. A Reuters report on the story said that it was unclear whether the agency was asking Volkswagen to build new models or use existing ones.

The story appeared in the weekly newspaper as the automaker and regulators were trying to work out an acceptable fix for the emissions scandal that began last September when Volkswagen admitted it had installed cheating software that allowed its vehicles to pass emissions tests, even though they were failing. The device at issue is a so-called defeat switch which turned on and off emissions software in response to tell-tales that determined if the car was being tested. If a test were underway, the software would reset the emissions systems so the vehicle could meet the standards for oxides of nitrogen emissions. Once the test ended, the car returned to normal mode where performance and mileage increased. Emissions increased, as well, in some cases, pushing 40 times the allowable limits for NOx.

“Talks with EPA are ongoing,” said a spokesman for Volkswagen, while refusing further comment on the state of the negotiations or the contents. The talks are continuing fully five months after the automaker admitted it had installed the software on nearly 600,000 diesel cars in the United States and nearly 11 million worldwide. The software was not only used on Volkswagen-branded vehicles but also Audi, Seat, Skoda and Porsche cars and SUVs.

The Bild am Sonntag story has appeared at a time that Hans Dieter Poetsch, chairman of Volkswagen’s supervisory board, was called in by Germany’s Transportation Ministry to update Alexander Dobrindt, the transportation minister, personally on the state of the emissions crisis. Poetsch reportedly said the automaker would do everything it could to solve the problem regardless of the consequences. The automaker confirmed the meeting between Poetsch, Dobrindt and Thomas Steg, head of governmental relations. The company also confirmed they updated the ministry on the state of the ongoing internal probe by the U.S. law firm Jones Day. The probe is slated to be made public in two months