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Customers can refuse VW emission fix

OK computer: The so-called 23R7 Engine Control Unit campaign is already being executed on Volkswagen Amarok vehicles, to resolve the widely publicised emissions test defeat device.

VW emissions software updated in scheduled maintenance but owners can opt out

4 Mar 2016

AFTER months of waiting for a remedy to the global Volkswagen Group emissions test-cheating engine management software, the first Australian customers are starting to receive recall notices for affected vehicles – but are not obliged to have the work completed.

The software code in question – dubbed a defeat device by authorities – was discovered last year after independently tested Volkswagen models were found to emit up to 40 times the legal level of nitrogen oxides (NOx) in the United States.

However, some customers have voiced concerns that winding back the NOx taps will also affect fuel consumption and performance, so may not want the remedial work carried out.

Volkswagen Group Australia public relations manager Kurt McGuiness told GoAuto that customers would experience no adverse effects to performance or efficiency with the update, but owners of impacted 2.0-litre and 3.0-litre diesel models have the option to skip the recall if they choose.

“The customer still has the right to say, ‘I don’t want it done’ and they can talk to the dealer about it, but as far as we can see there is no reason to not have it carried out,” he said. “But it is the customer’s car.” However, Mr McGuiness said the recall would effectively be refused by default, if a vehicle was never taken to an authorised Volkswagen dealership.

“Theoretically – there's no difference between that and not bringing your car back in. That's true of any recall.” As previously reported, customers are being asked to wait until they have received their letter before booking a recall appointment, but GoAuto has learnt of customer vehicles already being updated during other service bookings.

In some cases, customers may not have been fully informed of the required recall work before the Field Campaign 23R7 – Engine Control Unit (NOx) changes were made to their car.

Mr McGuiness explained that any recall work, including the emissions software fix, was normally completed automatically – but that service advisors were supposed to inform customers if their vehicle needed the recall in addition to any service and repair work.

“We are bringing our dealers up to speed in terms of the process for this one given how extraordinary it is,” he said.

“If a car gets brought in for any other work then the dealer is obliged to say, ‘your car has a recall on it and we are going to do the work’ because theoretically, the customer has the right to more or less opt out if they want.” Mr McGuiness added that in extreme cases customers may be legally obliged to comply with a recall.

“Having said that, this is a recall and the government has the right – as with any recall – to order customers to bring their cars in. I’ve never heard of it happening but it is within the government’s power to say this car is subject to a recall, you've failed to bring it in so you need to have the work carried out.” Such severe measures are unlikely to be initiated by the Australian government, particularly as the recall is not regarding a safety defect, and only impacts environmental air quality.

As with almost all modern service activities, a vehicle is first connected to a diagnostics system, and Mr McGuiness explained that if a Volkswagen model is due for a software update, the process is very simple while other work is being carried out.

“It’s the same with a service campaign. If the car is plugged into the system and the system says an item is outstanding for this car, the dealer is required to take the correct action.” One Volkswagen customer told GoAuto that their 2011 Amarok had been updated with the remedial software while the vehicle was in for scheduled maintenance, without a full explanation of the work.

However, the customer had experienced no initial detrimental effects and reported the engine operation as “smoother” following the service, although it was too early to tell if fuel consumption had changed.

Volkswagen’s Amarok one-tonne ute is the first model to be offered for the update with no mechanical attention required, and Mr McGuiness said the company would gradually roll out individual recalls for each of the effected models.

“The plan is, from a global perspective as well as Australia, we are rolling this out model-by-model,” he explained.

“With the number of engines, variants and models around the world, it makes a lot of sense to be rolling though in a systematic way.”

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