CA rejects VW recall plan

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

Thanks to California regulators, Volkswagen hasn’t yet found a way out of worldwide trouble. Federal agencies have flexed their muscles in tandem. “U.S. regulators rejected Volkswagen AG’s plan for recalling nearly 500,000 diesel-powered cars,” as the Wall Street Journal noted.

“The Environmental Protection Agency, which is working with California regulators on the VW fraud, had already said it was not satisfied with the recall plan and requested more information from the company,” the New York Times noted. And the Justice Department, “which had opened its own investigation, filed a civil complaint against the company, accusing it of exceeding EPA air quality standards and violating the Clean Air Act.”

The California Air Resources Board, meanwhile, warned that “Volkswagen’s proposals failed to address how the fix would affect the engine’s performance, emissions and vehicle safety,” according to the Journal. “Some experts are concerned that a fix that strengthens the vehicle’s emissions control could reduce fuel economy and overall performance.”

The Board continued its extraordinarily stern treatment of Volkswagen, stemming from a protracted investigation of the company’s secret effort to skirt the rules on emissions tests for diesel vehicles. The Board “said that a recall plan presented in November and December was ‘incomplete, substantially deficient and falls far short of meeting the legal requirements’ to be approved,” as the New York Times reported. And it slammed the company, which was sent reeling this fall and winter by collapsing car sales, for dragging its feet. “The state agency added that VW was taking too long to devise a fix.”

Faulty plans

In its criticisms, the Board singled out problems with the vagueness of the company’s projections based on its own proposed fix. “The Air Resources Board lists a number of reasons why Volkswagen’s proposal was rejected, but it specified that among the most important reasons for the rejection was the fact that ‘the proposed plans do not sufficiently address impacts on the engine, the vehicle’s overall operation, and all related emissions control technologies, including the OBD [On Board Diagnostics] system,'” according to Ars Technica. “In other words, Volkswagen failed to specify whether the fix to reduce nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions would impact the car’s gas mileage or its projected lifespan.”

That meant the Board felt as if VW had prevented it from doing its job. “As a result, the Board lacked enough information to tell whether the proposed fixes ‘are even technically feasible,’ according to a letter from Annette Hebert, the board’s chief of auto emissions compliance,” the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Deep trouble

Although the Board’s ruling affects under 76,000 cars, Ars noted, the EPA’s concurrence meant VW continued to face a comprehensive challenge to its business. “VW reiterated that it is working on a solution and is meeting with EPA officials this week in Washington to submit a reworked proposal,” the Washington Post noted. “But the statements from the California board and the EPA demonstrate the lengths VW will have to go to fix its cars and regain the trust of regulators.”

Harm to VW for its malfeasance has been direct and substantial. Sales have fallen 5 percent, as the Post added. “The worldwide scandal has hammered Volkswagen’s sales, prompted hundreds of lawsuits and forced the German automaker’s former CEO to resign, although he insisted he knew nothing about the defeat devices,” according to the Chronicle.

As CalWatchdog reported previously, California’s Air Resources Board was instrumental in blowing the lid off of Volkswagen’s lengthy emissions scam, which quickly drew the attention of national and foreign regulators reaching from Washington, D.C., to Germany. The Board threw down a gauntlet in November, demanding the recall and repair of affected cars and a formal plan from the company as to how it intended to achieve compliance.

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