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More woe for VW — new EPA violation notice, class action suits filed in Australia

POSTED BY Nigel Andretti ON 03 November 2015

THE UNITED STATES Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a second notice of violation of the Clean Air Act (CAA) to Volkswagen, Audi and Volkswagen Group of America alleging emissions cheating.

This notice is also being issued to Porsche and Porsche Cars North America.

The notice alleges that VW developed and installed a software defeat device — specifically, code in the electronic control module (ECM)— in certain VW, Audi and Porsche light duty diesel vehicles equipped with 6-cylinder, 3.0-l engines for model years (MY) 2014 through 2016 that results in increased NOx emissions of up to nine times EPA’s standard.

The vehicles covered by the new notice are the diesel versions of the 2014 VW Touareg, the 2015 Porsche Cayenne, and the 2016 Audi A6 Quattro, A7 Quattro, A8, A8L, and Q5.

EPA and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) have both initiated investigations based on Volkswagen’s alleged actions.

The new notice covers approximately 10,000 diesel passenger cars already sold in the United States since 2014. In addition, it covers an unknown volume of 2016 vehicles.

These alleged violations are in addition to the notice issued on 18 September and the ongoing investigation by EPA alleging a defeat device on certain 2.0- engines for 2009-2015 vehicles.

Since Sept 18 the EPA has been testing all 2015 and 2016 light duty diesel models available in the US using updated testing procedures specifically designed to detect potential defeat devices.

That testing led directly to the alleged violations covered under the new notice.

The EPA said when this software determines the vehicle has begun the FTP 75 Federal emission test procedure, it directs the vehicle to employ a low NOxtemperature conditioning mode.

A status put in the software indicates that a “temperature conditioning” mode is active. In this low NOxtemperature conditioning mode, the vehicle operates under a number of emission control parameters, including injection timing, exhaust gas recirculation rate, and common rail fuel pressure in such a way that the parameters yield low engine-out NOx emissions and high exhaust temperatures.

The software switches to “normal” mode as soon as it senses the vehicle is not being tested.

In “normal mode,” tailpipe emissions of NOx are up to 9 times the applicable NOx standard levels, depending on model type and type of drive cycle (e.g., city, highway), the EPA said.

The car company which may be liable for civil penalties and injunctive relief for the violations alleged in the new notice now has to respond to the allegations.

It is Volkswagen’s responsibility to fix the vehicles’ emissions systems, EPA said. Although these vehicles have emissions exceeding standards, these violations do not present a safety hazard for car owners and drivers and the vehicles remain legal to drive and resell.

Owners of vehicles of these models and years do not need to take any action at this time.

Meanwhile Sydney firm Bannister Law has begun filing class actions on behalf of the owners of Volkswagen, Skoda and Audi vehicles in Australia.

It is claiming the owners of affected vehicles may be entitled to their money back.

“A part of the claim in each class action is that both VW and Audi guaranteed, under the consumer laws, that the vehicles were fit for their purpose, and free from defects,” said the firm’s founder and principal Charles Bannister.

“In supplying cars containing the defeat device, the statutory guarantee was not complied with. If we’re successful on that part of the claim, the customer may be entitled to a refund of the purchase price.”

Based on an average purchase price of A$40,000 per vehicle, this would equate to some A$4 billion (RM12.28bn).

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