Germany‘s flagman automaker Volkswagen has ended up in a very unfamiliar and alarming situation: It’s on the constant lookout for immense storage space on both sides of the Atlantic to deal with bottlenecks caused by new engine emission tests.
As all carmakers are in a hurry to get their models checked with a new Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP) before September 1, failure to pass the test would mean a temporary halt to sales. But VW is being particularly scrutinized in the fallout of the 2015 Volkswagen emissions scandal, or “emissionsgate”.
To recall, the United States’ Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has found that Volkswagen had deliberately programmed turbocharged direct injection (TDI) diesel engines to activate their emissions controls only during laboratory emissions testing, which caused the vehicles' NOx output to meet US standards during regulatory testing, but emit up to 40 times more NOx in real-world driving.
As a result, regulators across the Atlantic have enacted stricter emission control policies, which found VW scrambling to hurriedly adjust to them while rescuing its tarnished reputation.
Having acknowledged in June a possible delay of up to 250,000 new cars worldwide triggered by the more stringent anti-pollution test procedures, VW hinted this week it may use Germany’s long-delayed international Berlin-Brandenburg airport to stockpile all the cars.
The automaker has also rented some multi-storey car parks and open-air parking lots across Germany to house the vehicles it cannot yet bring up to the new standards. Related: Americans Grow Weary Of U.S. Trade Policy
VW said in June it would close its main Wolfsburg factory for 1-2 days a week between August and the end of September. It has also said it will shut its Zwickau factory on some days.
Meanwhile, in the United States, Volkswagen has booked over 40 secure storage facilities to place nearly 300,000 cars. The lots were set up in several locations, including a decrepit suburban Detroit football stadium, a former Minnesota paper mill and a sun-bleached desert graveyard near Victorville, California.
There are no signs that Volkswagen will be emptying them any time soon.
“These vehicles are being stored on an interim basis and routinely maintained in a manner to ensure their long-term operability and quality, so that they may be returned to commerce or exported once U.S. regulators approve appropriate emissions modifications,” a VW representative said.
The automaker in September 2015 admitted to tricking the emissions control system in U.S. diesel vehicles for vehicles sold since 2009.
In the wake of the “dieselgate”, VW has agreed to spend more than $25 billion in the United States for claims from owners, environmental regulators, states and dealers and offered to buy back about 500,000 polluting U.S. vehicles. The buybacks will continue through the end of 2019.
To date, Volkswagen is said to have reacquired 335,000 diesel vehicles, resold 13,000 and destroyed about 28,000 vehicles. As of the end of last year, VW was storing 294,000 vehicles around the United States.
From September, more rigorous EU standards go into effect, designed to replicate real driving conditions more closely.
By Linas Jegelevicius for Safehaven.com
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