California just put the brakes on Volkswagen's recall plan

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) announced Tuesday that it has rejected Volkswagen’s recall plan for the company’s 2.0-litre TDI diesel engines that failed to meet the state’s emissions standards.

Volkswagen submitted a recall plan to CARB late last year regarding the diesel engines equipped with emissions-cheating software sold between 2009 and 2015.

The cheating software allowed VW’s cars to turn on its environmental protection systems while being tested, but switched them off during regular driving conditions.

“VW’s submissions are incomplete, substantially deficient, and fall far short of meeting the legal requirements to return these vehicles to the claimed certified condition,” the regulators wrote in a letter to VW.

According to CARB, VW’s plans were rejected because:

  1. The proposed plans contain gaps and lack sufficient detail.
  2. The descriptions of proposed repairs lack information required for a technical evaluation
  3. The proposals do not adequately address overall impacts on vehicle performance, emissions and safety.

The regulators have also rejected VW’s request for more time to finalise a fix, however, CARB did clarify that the rejection does not preclude a recall.

In response, Volkswagen released the following statement:

“Today’s announcement addresses the initial recall plans Volkswagen submitted to CARB in December. Since then, Volkswagen has had constructive discussions with CARB, including last week when we discussed a framework to remediate the TDI emissions issue. This week, we have been working with Kenneth Feinberg to develop a swift, fair and independent program, which will provide a comprehensive remedy for our customers. We are committed to working cooperatively with CARB and other regulators, and we plan to continue our discussions tomorrow when we meet with the EPA. As stated today by CARB, “Today’s actions do not preclude a recall, but allow for a broader array of potential remedies.”

The rejection of the recall plan is certainly not good news for Volkswagen, but it isn’t as serious as you might think.

“The rejection is not a surprise,” Kelley Blue Book senior analyst Rebecca Lindland said in an email. “Volkswagen has been working on an additional potential fix involving the catalytic converter.” Lindland says “details have not been worked out. The reasons for the rejection involve needing more details and specifications.”

Tuesday’s announcement may not have been a major setback for VW, but Lindland cautioned that the company cannot afford to have many more rejected recall plans.

“If [VW] presents another plan and that’s rejected, we can start to see some real concern,” Lindland added.
“However, it’s unfortunate because it continues to delay getting consumers the answers and solutions they want, need, and deserve.”

In September, the CARB and the EPA both issued notices of violation to Volkswagen Group concerning nearly 500,000 2.0-litre TDI diesel-powered vehicles sold in the US from 2009 and 2015.

The scandal eventually spread around the world — affecting more than 11 million cars. The scandal — dubbed dieselgate — led to the dismissal of VW CEO Martin Winterkorn, as well as several high-ranking engineers.

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