VW withdraws EPA application for 2016 diesels

Horn to offer apology in testimony to lawmakers, but no timeline for fix

Horn: “We are working with the agencies to continue the certification process.”

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WASHINGTON — Volkswagen of America has withdrawn its application for EPA certification for 2016 models with 2.0-liter diesel engines until they comply with U.S. emissions standards.

Without EPA certification, the cars and light trucks can’t be sold, which likely means there will be a longer-than-expected wait for the diesel models.

VW had been awaiting EPA approval for the 2016 diesels, but withdrew its request as part of ongoing discussions with U.S. regulators following emissions violations.

Volkswagen of America CEO Michael Horn disclosed the decision in written testimony he plans to deliver Thursday at a hearing before the House Energy and Commerce committee.

In his testimony, Horn said part of VW’s emissions control strategy included a “software feature” that should be “disclosed to and approved by” regulators as an “auxiliary emissions control device,” which are legal under U.S. emissions rules.

It’s unclear what that software feature does, exactly, but a Volkswagen of America spokeswoman said it is different from the software classified as a “defeat device” by regulators that activated full emissions controls only in lab tests while deactivating the controls on the road.

‘Sincere apology’

In his written statement, made public Wednesday, Horn apologized for the violations of U.S. emissions rules but stopped short of saying when a fix for affected diesel-powered vehicles would be available.

Horn outlined the sequence of events leading up to the EPA’s disclosure of VW’s emissions violations last month, and what the company has done since.

Absent from his prepared testimony is any indication about the timeline for repairs to bring the roughly 482,000 VW models with 2.0-liter diesel engines sold since 2008 with the illegal software into compliance with U.S. regulations.

In his testimony, Horn says he was informed in the spring of 2014 that VW may have an emissions compliance problem when West Virginia University published research showing the real-world emissions of two diesel-powered VW models were much greater than lab tests indicated.

Horn says he was informed that the “possible emissions non-compliance” issue could be remedied, and that VW engineers would work with regulators to resolve the issue.

Horn said he was also told in late 2014 that VW technical teams had a “specific plan” to bring the vehicles into compliance and were working with regulators.

Volkswagen issued a recall is December 2014 to reprogram the emissions calibrations on some of its diesel vehicles. Tests conducted by the California Air Resources Board following the recall found that the higher real-world emissions persisted.

On Sept. 3, Horn said, “Volkswagen AG disclosed at a meeting” with the EPA and California’s Air Resources Board that the emissions software in its 2009-2015 model year diesels contained a “’defeat device’ in the form of hidden software that could recognize whether a vehicle was being operated in a test laboratory or on the road.”

Horn called the violations that have upended the company’s management ranks and sent its stock price tumbling “deeply troubling” and offered a “sincere apology” for the company’s use of emissions control software that masked real-world emissions.

“I did not think that something like this was possible at the Volkswagen Group,” Horn said in his prepared testimony. “We have broken the trust of our customers, dealerships, employees, as well as the public and regulators.”

Different repairs

Horn’s statement says each of the three generations of VW’s 2.0-liter diesel engines involved will require a different repair. He says technical teams are “working tirelessly” to develop repairs for the diesels, which must be tested, validated and approved by regulators before being offered to customers.

Horn will testify before the House panel’s Oversight and Investigations subcommittee Thursday at 10 a.m. ET. The subcommittee will also hear from Chris Grundler, director of the EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality, and Phillip Brooks, director of the EPA’s Office of Civil Enforcement for the Air Enforcement Division.

You can reach Ryan Beene at rbeene@crain.com. — Follow Ryan on Twitter


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