Tired of waiting for Volkswagen, German authorities have rejected VW's proposal for voluntary repairs and ordered the automaker to get its recall of 8.5 million diesel-powered cars into gear.
In the U.S., the Environmental Protection Agency is waiting for VW to propose a remedy. The EPA will then study the proposed remedy to determine whether it is likely to work, a process that could stretch well into 2016.
The Federal Trade Commission has also opened an investigation into the deception, joining the Justice Department and the EPA, agency spokesman Justin Cole confirmed yesterday. At issue, presumably, are VW's advertisements touting its "clean" diesels.
It was researchers in the United States who discovered that VW had rigged a "cut-out" that turned off much of the pollution control equipment on its diesel cars except when they are being inspected, allowing the cars to emit as much as 40 times the allowed amount of pollutants.
But the number of cars involved in the U.S. is relatively small, fewer than half a million. In Germany, by contrast, the illegal device is found on more than 8.5 million cars. Today's recall affects 2.4 million of them. It came after German Transport Ministry officials rejected VW's proposed fix.
A huge embarrassment
In the U.S., the scandal is a huge embarrassment for Volkswagen that many analysts say could permanently harm its brand but is not regarded as a national disgrace or a potential economic or environmental disaster.
In Germany, by contrast, the number of cars is not only much greater, but the importance of VW to the nation's economy is hard to overstate. German authorities, fearing that their entire auto industry could be harmed by the scandal, are increasingly impatient and determined to begin implementing a solution.
The recall ordered by the government will be much more expensive for VW since it requires the company to speed up the process and devote more time, money, and personnel to designing and implementeing a fix.
Under today's order, Volkswagen must share technical details of its solution with the government by mid-November and begin recalling cars in January. The government will test the recalled vehicles to be sure the repairs are successful.
For the sake of customers and the image of the automobile, “we will clear up what happened at Volkswagen,” Enak Ferlemann, state secretary in Germany’s Transport Ministry, said in a speech in the lower house of parliament, Bloomberg Business reported. “Germany will stay the No. 1 auto country.”