EPA approves fix for 326,000 VW diesels, but will owners take it?

July 28, 2017

If you live in the U.S. and you own one of the 475,000 or so 2.0-liter Audi or VW diesels affected by the Volkswagen Dieselgate scandal, we have good news and bad news. 

Since it's Friday, we'll start with the good news: your car can probably be fixed. The Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board have approved a repair for 326,000 diesels equipped with defeat devices that allow them to cheat on emissions tests. With the illegal gadgets engaged, Volkswagen's diesels can emit up to 40 times the legal limit of nitrogen oxide. 

The repair/upgrade involves hardware and software adjustments to the affected vehicles. Combined with fixes that were previously approved for others Dieselgate cars, roughly 98 percent of Volkswagen's smaller "clean diesel" vehicles in America can now be brought in line with federal and state law.

The bad news? The fix is going to cost you--not in dollars, because the repair is free, but in fuel economy, which will slip about two miles per gallon. 

What effect this might have on Volkswagen's ever-mounting bill for Dieselgate misdeeds remains to be seen.

The fix will almost certainly be cheaper than buying back diesel vehicles, an option that the automaker is required to offer owners according to its agreement with federal regulators. If enough owners were to choose this new repair, Volkswagen might spend significantly less than the $22.3 billion it's currently projected to shell out in the U.S.

Unfortunately, history suggests that those hopes might be in vain. At last count, nearly 98 percent of Audi and VW diesel owners had asked Volkswagen to buy back their vehicles rather than having them repaired. 

The one silver lining here--not only for Volkswagen, but also for die-hard diesel fans--is that bought-back cars can subsequently be repaired. Afterward, Volkswagen may be able to re-sell them to consumers, as it has with 2015 model diesels

With this week's approved fix, the only 2.0-liter diesels still needing a green-lit repair are 2012-2014 VW Passat diesels with manual transmissions. Stay tuned.  

Note: for purposes of clarity, "Volkswagen" has been used to refer to the Volkswagen Group parent company, while "VW" has been used to refer to the company's popular mass-market brand of automobiles.

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