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Some Question Whether VW’s Dieselgate Fix Works Well

With European repairs moving ahead on vehicles caught up in Dieselgate, some officials worry that the fix may be overstressing engines.

It is probably just as well that Volkswagen isn’t repairing the turbodiesel engines caught up in the Dieselgate scandal because it is possible the fix that the automaker has installed in 1.23 million 2.0-liter European engines could be damaging the powerplants. While the automaker has received U.S. District Court approval to start the buyback program that could ultimately lead to the repurchase of 475,000 turbodiesel vehicles in the U.S., regulators have not yet approved any fixes here for the powerplants.

In Europe, though, it is another story. Volkswagen has received permission from German Transport Ministry (KBA) officials to begin repairing the turbodiesels that were dragged into the Dieselgate scandal. Since approval by one European Union country on a matter like environmental enforcement means that it is acceptable to all EU members, VW was cleared to begin repairs to the 8.5 million cars in Europe that were among a total of 11 million worldwide included in the emissions scandal

Italian Lab Raises Questions

According to a story that appeared in the German publication Der Spiegel, tests conducted by the Vela emissions lab in Italy are being used by officials of the European Commission as the basis of their concerns. An unnamed member of the EU’s executive told Der Spiegel that the commission is worried one part of the fix – a software update for 1.2- and 2.0-iiter engines – overstresses engine components.

VW denied its modifications caused any damage. “The software update will have no adverse influences on [fuel] consumption or the durability of the engine and its components,” a company spokesman was quoted as saying.

The EU, backed by Germany’s VZBV consumer lobby, asked the automaker to guarantee that its fix works. “We need VW to guarantee, in a legally binding way and without any time limit, that the repairs will work and do not have any negative impact,” an official told Reuters this week. The consumer lobby, which had scheduled a meeting with the automaker, said there was no progress on guarantees.

Guarantee Not Needed—VW

VW said there was no need for “an advanced guarantee declaration,” a spokesman told Reuters because the fixes were already subject to comprehensive testing to ensure there would be no negative impacts on engines.

Work is proceeding on completing the repairs needed to bring the affected vehicles into compliance with European emissions rules. The motors involved are 1.2- and 2.0-liter powerplants. They are used in vehicles made by VW, Audi, Skoda, Seat and VW commercial vehicles. So far, about 5.6 million vehicles have been cleared for repair by KBA. The repairs to VW models with 1.2- and 2.0-iter engines consist of software updates for the pollution control systems. About 3 million 1.6-liter engines require a piece of mesh to be installed near the air filter, as well as the software update.

VW’s refusal to offer a compensation program similar to that offered in the U.S. has angered consumer groups and politicians alike.