Volkswagen Plant, Wolfsburg, Germany (photo by Richard Bartz)Enlarge Photo
The Volkswagen emissions-cheating fiasco now known as Dieselgate began making headlines nearly four months ago, but the company has yet to announce a fix for the 567,000 U.S. vehicles affected by the scandal.
Volkswagen has made progress in Germany, where emissions laws are more lax, but here in the States, "clean diesel" owners have received little more than apologies and some not-so-beloved gift cards. Other than that, all we've been told is that the fixes are simpler and cheaper than expected.
Over the weekend, though, came new information from Volkswagen Group of America President and CEO Michael Horn, who said that repair plans have, in fact, been progressing. Now, it appears that the biggest hurdles the company faces at the Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board are political rather than technical.
What solutions might Volkswagen be considering? Recent reports suggest at least two potential options.
The first of those involves a catalytic converter, which Volkswagen CEO Matthias Muller says would work on about 430,000 VW and Audi vehicles equipped with 2.0-liter diesel engines. Muller will meet with the EPA's Gina McCarthy tomorrow to discuss the plan.
Whether the meeting will bear fruit is anyone's guess. While Muller seems optimistic, McCarthy is far less so-- in fact, she's publicly bemoaned Volkswagen's unwillingness to work with the EPA on finding "a satisfactory way forward".
And even if the EPA talks don't tank, it could be quite a while before Volkswagen's converters are ready for rollout. To date, the devices have only been described as "in the works".
The second option for Volkswagen could be far more expensive and would involve buying back thousands of cars. Though no one from Volkswagen has discussed that plan in public yet, behind-the-scenes reports suggest that the automaker is weighing the possibility of buying up to 115,000 vehicles from their U.S. owners.
The good news is, the catalytic converters and buybacks could address most of the affected VW, Audi, and Porsche vehicles.
The bad news is, neither of those solutions seems especially simple or cheap to us. And with Volkswagen staff in Germany working overtime to hide potentially incriminating emails from U.S. investigators, the fees, fines, and other costs associated with Dieselgate could mount far, far higher than we'd originally thought.