It looks like Volkswagen will be delivering more gasoline versions of its re-engineered 2016 Passat to dealer showrooms later this month. This speculation took on a life of its own yesterday as the automaker announced that it was halting production of diesel-powered mid-sized Passats at its Chattanooga, Tenn., plant. The cessation occurred near the midway point of the model’s planned production ramp-up.
VW Chattanooga spokesman Scott Wilson seemed to confirm the speculation in an email to Automotive News. In his email, Wilson noted at this point in the production ramp-up “it is no problem to adjust the mix to accommodate this change.” Wilson noted that the automaker was “in the middle of the ramp up of the production volume.” Though the production change was announced only yesterday, the real halt may have occurred in the last few weeks. Wilson didn’t know when the stop started.
This move makes sense in light of two actions:
- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) indicated in October that it would likely withhold certification of 2016 VW diesel vehicles.
- The automaker’s withdrawal of its request for certification in October.
As there are no other changes planned and expansion at the Chattanooga plant is continuing, it is entirely possible that vehicle output will remain the same with added number of gasoline-engined Passats making up any differences. The expansion is to accommodate a new mid-sized crossover in 2016.
Until yesterday’s announcement, VW had apparently built some diesel-powered Passat TDI models. EPA and automaker actions effectively banned their sale. This action was the direct result of EPA’s action in the diesel emissions scandal.
On Sept. 18, the federal agency announced that it had ordered the recall of 482,000 2009-15 Volkswagen diesel TDI models for diesel emissions problems. The agency, after testing, had determined that there was a problem with VW’s emissions software. At that time, Volkswagen admitted to the problem – a defeat device installed on diesel cars to enable them to meet tough emissions standards. The device, actually a piece of software, looked at various systems – traction control, for example – and if the it detected emissions testing, the software adjusted emissions to pass U.S. standards. On the end of the test, the emissions settings were set to normal operating. In this mode, causing the car to emit higher-than-normal levels of oxides of nitrogen.
In related developments, VW:
- Has admitted that it understated CO₂ emissions levels for 800,000 vehicles VW, Seat and Skoda vehicles. European countries link their road taxes to CO₂ levels. If levels are understated owners will have to pay the added balance.
- Will pay the added CO₂ taxes owners of vehicles whose CO₂ were misstated.
- Has been given ten days to disclose the cause of CO₂ irregularities.
- Has been the cause of a significant drop in Porsche SA profits. Due to the diesel scandal, VW profits for the first nine months of the year were 1.9 billion euros or $1.28 billion, down from 2.5 billion euros of $1.68 billion a year ago.
- VW has dashed hopes for a quick solution to the problem. VW officials have said that rather than looking for the cause now of the diesel emissions problem, they are first looking for an effective fix.