Want A New Volkswagen Diesel? Prepare To Wait

October 9, 2015

If you're waiting for a shot at buying a diesel-powered 2016 Volkswagen Beetle, Golf, Jetta, or Passat, we hope you brought a book. According to Auto News, the Environmental Protection Agency is preparing stringent new tests for those vehicles, and we could be well into the new year before you sign on the dotted line.

The delay isn't surprising. In fact, given the severity of Volkswagen's transgressions -- having equipped 11 million vehicles with software designed to cheat on emissions tests -- you could argue that the EPA is being generous by even agreeing to inspect the new models.

That inspection, however, will be more thorough than those carried out in years past, when regulators failed to catch Volkswagen's deceptive code. As the EPA's Chris Grundler explains, the process will take "a matter of months".

The ball will start rolling when Volkswagen re-submits the applications it had previously filed for 2016 diesel models and subsequently withdrew. Volkswagen hasn't indicated when it plans to re-start the process.  

When it does, the EPA will start digging around Volkswagen's 2016 models -- and the digging will likely be pretty deep. Not only does the agency need to ensure that there are no remnants of the deceptive diesel software, it also needs to understand a new and "previously undisclosed" bit of code on 2016 vehicles that's linked to emissions controls.

Volkswagen says that the new software is designed as an auxiliary system to ensure, for example, that diesel engines don't overheat. If that's accurate, it's entirely legal, but Volkswagen's timing is unfortunate.

To make matters worse, Volkswagen isn't the only automaker seeking EPA approval. Sadly, Volkswagen's cheat has slowed down the approval process for everyone, so that the agency can look more closely at every vehicle it approves.

So, Volkswagen hasn't just hurt its own reputation, it's ruined things for everyone. The company's deception is resulting in tougher EPA tests, lengthening the time it takes for vehicles to be green-lighted. When it submits applications for 2016 models, Volkswagen will have to take its place at the back of an increasingly long line. Presumably, the process will be repeated for Audi models, too.

Translation: Volkswagen's 650 U.S. dealerships aren't going to get happier anytime soon.

And we hate to end on a negative note, but none of this addresses the bureaucratic gauntlet that Volkswagen will have to run in getting approval for its fix of 482,000 law-dodging diesels from 2009-2015. Those repairs will require thumbs-ups not just from the EPA but presumably from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, too. The former will ensure that the fixes address emissions issues, while NHTSA will ensure that the repairs are safe for consumers.
 
Proposals and tests from two federal agencies? That book you brought better be War and Peace.
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