Volkswagen dealers across the United States face not having any new diesel-powered cars to sell as the scandal engulfing Europe’s largest car maker deepens.
VW on Wednesday withdrew applications to the Environmental Protection Agency for emissions certifications for the 2016 versions of its diesel-driven Jettas, Golfs, Passats and Beetles.
The move raises the possibility that an emissions-rigging device similar to earlier models is also included in its new cars.
VW has admitted that four-cylinder diesel cars from the 2009 to 2015 model years had software that helped the cars cheat on emissions tests. The admission came after the company was confronted by the EPA and California regulators, touching off a worldwide scandal that involves 11 million vehicles.
By withdrawing the applications for the 2016 models, VW is leaving thousands of diesel vehicles stranded at ports nationwide, giving dealers no new diesel-powered vehicles to sell.
The application withdrawal was revealed on Wednesday in written testimony submitted by Volkswagen’s US chief, Michael Horn, to a congressional subcommittee. It says VW was pulling its application because the cars have software that should have been disclosed to the EPA, which must certify them for sale in the country.
Horn’s testimony said the company was working with regulators to obtain certification.
However, it was unclear on Wednesday exactly what the device does. EPA spokeswoman Liz Purchia said VW recently gave the agency information on an “auxiliary emissions control device”. The EPA and California’s Air Resources Board were investigating “the nature and purpose” of the device, she said.
A Volkswagen spokesman in the US said he did not know what the device did, but the company said that such devices gauge engine performance, road speed “and any other parameter for activating, modulating, delaying or deactivating” emissions controls.
Horn is scheduled to appear before the House panel on Thursday, and witnesses are typically required to provide a copy of their prepared remarks a day in advance.
The lack of certification is bad news for American VW dealers, who were hoping to put the new models on sale soon in the wake of last month’s admission that the company had installed on-board computer software designed to cheat on government emissions tests in nearly 500,000 “clean diesel” cars.
For some VW dealers, the diesel models accounted for about a third of sales. Tom Backer, general manager of Lash Volkswagen in White Plains, New York, said his dealership had already lost three deals with potential buyers because he could not get the new cars.
“It’s not good,” said Backer, who said he typically sells only a small number of diesels. “It’s definitely a stain on the brand’s image.”
Thursday’s appearance will be the first on Capitol Hill by Horn, a 51-year-old German and veteran VW manager who took the reins of the brand’s American subsidiary last year. He is expected to face blistering questions about when top executives at the company first learned of the scheme.
Horn will tell Congress he only learned about the cheating software “over the past several weeks”, VW spokeswoman Jeannine Ginivan told Associated Press.
He will also echo apologies from VW’s global executives as the company continues to come under pressure to identify those responsible, to say how vehicles with illegal software will be fixed and whether it also cheated in Europe.
New chairman Hans Dieter Poetsch said in Germany on Wednesday that it would take time to get to the bottom of the scandal.
“Nobody is served by speculation or vague, preliminary progress reports,” Poetsch told a news conference. “Therefore it will take some time until we have factual and reliable results and can provide you with comprehensive information,” he added, declining to take any questions.
Also scheduled to testify in the US on Thursday are two officials at the EPA who oversee emissions testing and compliance with clean air rules.
VW first confessed the deception to U.S. regulators on 3 September, more than a year after researchers at West Virginia University first published a study showing the real-world emissions of the company’s Jetta and Passat models were far higher than allowed. The same cars had met emissions standards when tested in the lab.