Volkswagen Withdraws Request to Certify 2016 Diesel Models – Wall Street Journal
conceded it won’t be able sell diesel-powered vehicles in the U.S. for a prolonged period, withdrawing a request for regulators to certify new models in the wake of an emissions-cheating scandal.
Volkswagen’s 2016 model-year diesel-powered vehicles include emissions-control software that requires regulatory approval in the U.S., according to prepared remarks by the auto maker’s U.S. chief executive to be delivered on Thursday at a congressional hearing. The testimony doesn’t make clear whether the software can defeat emissions tests as software on older diesel-powered vehicles does.
In his prepared statement, Michael Horn, head of Volkswagen Group of America, offered a “sincere apology” to U.S. lawmakers for the German auto maker’s yearslong deception.
“These events are deeply troubling. I did not think that something like this was possible at the Volkswagen Group,” he said in his testimony made available by a House panel. “We have broken the trust of our customers, dealerships and employees, as well as the public and regulators.”
The decision to withdraw a request for U.S. certification hits the German auto maker’s U.S. factory in Chattanooga, Tenn., where diesel-powered cars account for about one-third of its output. Regulators previously had declined to certify the vehicles after discovering this summer that older models contained software designed to dupe U.S. emissions tests.
U.S. lawmakers are likely to ask Mr. Horn when he first became aware of Volkswagen’s emissions cheating. He repeats that the company disclosed the cheating to regulators on Sept. 3. A person familiar with the matter previously said a Volkswagen executive disclosed the cheating to a California regulator in late August.
Mr. Horn’s prepared testimony said he was informed in spring 2014 of a “possible emissions noncompliance that could be remedied” and that EPA and California regulators were capable of conducting “defeat device” testing. Mr. Horn added that he was told engineers were working with regulators to resolve the issue and by later in 2014 had a plan to make vehicles compliant.
Volkswagen launched a recall of roughly half a million diesel cars in the U.S. in December 2014 that failed to fix emissions discrepancies.
Mr. Horn in 2014 “did not know, nor was he informed, that Volkswagen vehicles included the defeat device software,” a Volkswagen spokeswoman said. “That information was only revealed to Mr. Horn and to U.S. government agencies over the past several weeks.”
Christopher Grundler, head of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of transportation and air quality, is also expected to testify to the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Thursday. He will reiterate the agency will test diesel models from all other auto makers to search for similar defeat devices, according to his prepared testimony. Mr. Grundler will say that excess emissions from Volkswagen diesels were serious enough to cause asthma and other conditions that can land people in the hospital.
Mr. Horn was unavailable to comment on Wednesday.
Volkswagen in recent discussions with the EPA and California Air Resources Board said that the company’s emissions-control strategy included a software feature that “should be disclosed to and approved by them…in connection with the certification process,” according to Mr. Horn’s prepared remarks, leading the company to withdraw its 2016-model certification request.
‘These events are deeply troubling. I did not think that something like this was possible at the Volkswagen Group.’
The 53-year-old is set to be grilled by lawmakers over the use of test-rigging software on nearly a half-million older diesel-powered cars in the U.S. The software dupes emissions tests to make its vehicles appear to run cleaner than they were. The auto maker later said the software, called a “defeat device” by regulators, was installed on nearly 11 million vehicles across the globe.
The company plans to start recalling vehicles in January and finish fixing them by the end of 2016 in markets outside the U.S. A timeline for the U.S. recall hasn’t yet been set.
Regulators have refused to certify Volkswagen’s latest diesel models after the auto maker conceded it used software on vehicles with model years between 2009 and 2015 to cheat on emissions tests. Volkswagen officials continually asked regulators for the certifications leading up to the EPA’s Sept. 18 disclosure that the auto maker had admitted to cheating on emissions tests.
Mr. Horn said a Volkswagen investigation into the matter “is just beginning” and that his testimony should “be considered preliminary and based on my best current recollection and information.”
The emissions-cheating scandal cost former Volkswagen Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn his job and the auto maker has set aside more than $7 billion to cover the expected cost of fixing cars tainted by the software. Current CEO Matthias Müller has said the total cost of the fixing the affected cars would be higher, but gave no new estimate. He said Volkswagen plans to pare a $96 billion investment plan and to ramp up cost-cutting in the wake of the scandal. Mr. Müller told a German newspaper that he so far believes only a few employees are responsible for duping the EPA and California regulators.
Mr. Horn, meanwhile, received strong backing from U.S. dealers. Volkswagen’s national dealer advisory council in the U.S. expressed “unconditional support” for Mr. Horn in late September, according to trade publication Automotive News.