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Car and Driver: Nein! California Rejects VW Emissions Plan to Fix Diesel V-6 Models


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What was the easier fix just got buried in soot. The tides have suddenly turned for consumers in the Volkswagen emissions scandal. Months ago, it was looking like finding a remedy for owners of Volkswagen, Porsche, and Audi models with the 3.0-liter TDI (turbo-diesel) V-6 was going to be the easy part—far easier than fixing the VW 2.0-liter four-cylinder TDI.



Yet now, with a buyback plan underway for those 2.0-liter engines, a settlement plan reached with federal regulators, and individual settlements reached with the majority of the states, Volkswagen’s pockets are feeling about $15 billion lighter, but its path toward redemption is far better defined than it was a few weeks ago.


That is, until you consider those V-6 TDI models. Now it’s quite clear that those typically more affluent owners—of higher-priced luxury vehicles, for the most part—will go the longest without seeing their vehicles fixed.


In a particularly blunt statement released yesterday, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) found the proposed recall plans from Volkswagen and Audi, regarding those engines, to be “incomplete and deficient in a number of areas.”


CARB, in the letter that went out to Volkswagen and Audi, highlighted a number of details, including inadequate data, and an incomplete demonstration of how the repair would affect fuel economy, drivability, and performance, and of how average emissions levels would compare before and after the fix.


The Rare Time Porsche Is Called “Substantially Deficient”


The agency further described that the automaker’s submissions “are incomplete, substantially deficient, and fall short of meeting the legal requirements to return these vehicles to the claimed certified configuration.” That’s from the letter sent to VW and Audi; a letter with virtually the same wording was sent to Porsche.


CARB also explained that certain required test data won’t be available until the end of December for the most recent, so-called Generation 2.2 version of this engine. That could push an agreement, a fix, and any payment scheme well into 2017; or it could push VW toward offering a large-scale buyback similar to what’s in the works for 2.0-liter four-cylinder TDI engines.


Volkswagen, in an official statement, called the announcement “a procedural step,” and that it will “continue to work closely with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and CARB to try to secure approval of a technical resolution for our 3.0L TDI vehicles as quickly as possible.”


The Fix that Fizzled


It’s an unexpected turnaround. In recent weeks, some sources close to the talks had been cited as Volkswagen was reportedly near a fix for these models—one that likely would include a software component as well as a new catalytic converter. And less than two weeks ago, a VW lawyer argued that the 3.0-liter engines were fixable, and that it would neither be complicated nor negatively affect performance.


The issue dates back to last November, when on the heels of the emissions scandal pertaining to VW’s 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo-diesel engines, the automaker admitted that the Audi-designed and -built 3.0-liter turbo-diesel V-6 contained a so-called Auxiliary Emission Control Device that CARB later found to be a defeat device. In these vehicles, as with those with the 2.0-liter TDI four-cylinder, software would detect when a vehicle was being run through a federal (EPA) driving cycle, and switch to a mode that would provide completely different engine and emissions-system operating parameters than the rest of the time—which resulted in up to nine times the legal limit of nitrogen-oxide emissions (NOx) in the case of the TDI V-6.


The EPA says that NOx can aggravate certain respiratory conditions and asthma, and that it “can aggravate existing heart disease, leading to increased hospital admissions and premature death.”


Of around 85,000 vehicles with this engine sold in the U.S., 16,000—nearly a fifth—were sold in California, a state that’s been particularly aggressive about phasing in (and enforcing) tighter NOx regulations. On a page about diesel exhaust and health, CARB declares that “NOx emissions from diesel engines are important because they can undergo chemical reactions in the atmosphere leading to formation of PM2.5 and ozone.”


Conflicting Messages, Extended Timeline


“As CARB and EPA have mentioned previously, vehicles impacted by the emissions matter are safe to operate,” noted Volkswagen of America spokesman Darryll Harrison, responding to our request for comment on the further-extended timeline of the fix.


Any fix will have to stay true to how these 3.0-liter V-6 TDI models were originally sold and marketed—as a strong-performing, tow-friendly, and more fuel-efficient alternative to gasoline V-6 and V-8 engines. An August 25 status hearing has been set by U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer to check in on progress; with the failing grade from California now factoring in, it will be one to follow closely.


Here are the U.S.-market models with the affected 3.0-liter TDI engine (which will continue to be under a new-vehicle sales ban):

  • -
  • 2014–2016 Audi A6 3.0L V-6 TDI-
  • 2014–2016 Audi A7 3.0L V-6 TDI-
  • 2014–2016 Audi A8/A8L 3.0L V-6 TDI-
  • 2014–2016 Audi Q5 3.0L V-6 TDI-
  • 2013–2016 Porsche Cayenne Diesel 3.0L V-6-
  • 2009–2016 Volkswagen Touareg 3.0L V-6 TDI-

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