Nearly one-quarter of the VW diesel owners eligible for the Dieselgate aid program have signed up, Michael Horn, Volkswagen of America’s chief executive officer told reporters last night. Addressing a press conference on the second press day of the Los Angeles Auto Show, the automaker’s executive indicated that 120,000 people had signed up for the program. Ten days ago, the carmaker announced that it would give a $500 prepaid money card, $500 in credit at VW dealerships and three years of free roadside assistance to owners of vehicles impacted by the diesel emissions cheating scandal.
The information, Horn said, will assist the automaker in planning to repair the 482,000 vehicles that have been ordered recalled by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the use of emissions scamware. Two months ago, the agency told the automaker to recall the vehicles because it had found a serious problem in its emission control software. EPA, initially notified by researchers of the problem, found a “defeat switch” in the control program.
The switch monitored telltales such as the traction control system – which is usually turned off during an emissions compliance test – and others to indicate whether the vehicle was under test. If the telltales indicated there was a test, the software branched to a routine that tightened up emissions controls so the vehicle met EPA requirements. At the end of the test, the same routine restored the vehicle to normal. The result of this cheatware was that the vehicle passed the emissions test, though it was still really failing. The agency found some vehicle emissions levels were 40 percent greater than the EPA rules.
In his remarks, made last night and reported in Automotive News today, Horn also indicated the automaker was close to a fix for the vehicles that have felt the impact of the scamware scandal. “I am personally hopeful that we will be able to announce something soon about the remedies that we have identified and which we are discussing with the agencies in the upcoming days,” he said. VW had better have something on the table by tomorrow as the automaker was given until Nov. 20 to submit a draft repair plan to the California Air Resources Board (CARB), one of two agencies whose signoff is needed for any emissions plan. The other agency is EPA.
The vehicles involved in the emissions cheating scandal include those using the automaker’s two-liter turbodiesel engine. VW had touted the engine, since its introduction in 2009 model year vehicles, as an example of clean-diesel technology. The engine was used until this year when it was replaced with a new powerplant. In sum, there were three versions of the older powerplant, each of which requires a different type of fix. The earliest versions of the engine require major hardware and software revisions, the second generation requires some hardware and some software repair. The third generation needs only software changes.
Horn again apologized for the scandal. He was the second VW executive this week to issue the apology. On Tuesday, Audi of America President Scott Keogh also apologized for the issue. Horn said last night that he understood the anger and frustration felt by VW diesel owners. “All these reactions are understandable since everybody at Volkswagen of America feels exactly those same emotions,” he said. And, until a permanent fix is found, VW “can’t stop apologizing.”