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Tokyo show: Diesel cheat fix approved: Diess

Electric future: VW Passenger Cars CEO Dr Herbert Diess (right) and VW Group Japan CEO Sven Stein on the stand at the Tokyo motor show.

Head of VW Passenger Cars says Europe has approved the fix for its diesel engines

Volkswagen logo28 Oct 2015

By TIM NICHOLSON in TOKYO

VOLKSWAGEN Passenger Cars chief executive Herbert Diess has confirmed that European legislative authorities have approved a fix for vehicles caught up in the diesel emissions-rigging scandal.

However, the German automotive giant is still waiting on approval from American regulators.

Speaking on the Volkswagen stand today at the Tokyo motor show, where VW presented the Tiguan GTE plug-in hybrid for the first time outside Europe, Dr Diess said he was unable to detail the changes required to the affected models, other than confirm that it would involve a software update in most cases and could involve hardware changes to some vehicles.

He also said the company expected that performance of the EA189 engines would not be affected “for most of the cars” after the corrective action, but admitted “we are still working on options” for an unspecified number of vehicles.

“We have got regulatory approval,” he told a packed throng of journalists at the show. “It has been approved by the European legislation authorities.

“It will be tightly followed up. Basically every other week we have a meeting with the German authorities to prove we are on the way.”

Dr Diess said that fixing the affected engines – which are fitted to more than 11 million vehicles worldwide, and around 100,000 in Australia, across several brands including Skoda, Audi and Seat – was the company’s top priority.

“Our first priority is really to fix the problems of our customers’ engines – we have the whole company dedicated to this,” he said.

“We are working day and night, every weekend to sort the problems. We have plans that have been confirmed so far by European authority.

“We hope to get confirmation of our plans to fix with the American authorities in the next few weeks.”

Volkswagen has previously confirmed that it will reduce its investments by around €1 billion ($A1.6b) per year, and that its cost-cutting “efficiency program” is to be “accelerated” as a direct result of the emissions-rigging scandal.

However, Dr Diess said today that the company had managed to avoid slashing investment in product development.

“We will keep all of our product and innovation programs running but we have postponed some infrastructure projects, which we had in our plan,” he said.

Dr Diess also reaffirmed Volkswagen’s ongoing commitment to diesel powertrains, particularly as it relates to emerging markets such as India.

“The diesel engine which is highly relevant in India plays a major role also in our future,” he said.

“We still believe in the future of diesel engines because they are in the trade off of emissions and CO2. They are a very good option for many vehicles.

“So also we decided to equip all our diesel engines now with the latest SCR (Selective Catalytic Reduction) technology … as soon as possible.”

Dr Diess said it was “too early to comment” on whether the company would record an operating loss this year, and added a similar sentiment regarding potential customer vehicle buy-backs.

“It is too early to say because at the moment we are hopeful and we believe that we can fix it,” he said.

Dr Diess said the impact on sales was dependent on the region, with some countries, including its German home market, not recording a dip in overall sales.

“That varies from country to country. In some countries we didn’t see any effect, in other countries we have a reduced order intake on diesel engine vehicles,” he said.

Dr Diess confirmed that Audi sales have continued to be “strong”, that the German market remained buoyant for the company, while overall sales in the US were also steady.

He added that the United Kingdom and Southern European countries had seen sales declines, but emphasised the company’s commitment to fixing the problem first before repairing sales volume.

“That will also change over the weeks. The most important (thing) for us is to fix the problem, to get in contact with all of our customers and say they can feel safe. Their cars are safe. They are driveable, and most of the cars will have a software update.”

Exposed in September, VW was found to have fitted diesel engines with a device that detected when the vehicle was being tested for emissions.

It would record its best reading under test conditions only, but when the vehicle was driven in everyday situations would emit substantially more than the company had reported.

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