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EPA warns all automakers that it's 'stepping up' emissions testing in wake of VW scandal

On a conference call today, the EPA told reporters that it is notifying all automakers selling vehicles in the US that it's "stepping up" surveillance of emissions being released by new models. Beyond that, though, the call came across as more of a defensive measure on the part of EPA leadership in light of the massive Volkswagen diesel scandal: in the same breath, it reminded callers that its current testing measures have been "very successful," featuring a "well-established process" with "robust oversight." It doesn't test every new car that rolls off an assembly line — there are "limited resources" available, the agency says, though it does recruit vehicles from private owners and initiates random spot checks at factories.

The EPA is going on the defensive

That said, the EPA clearly failed to detect and out Volkswagen for a long time, considering that cars tied up in the scandal go back to the 2009 model year. To that end, the EPA says that it is "upping [its] game" with "additional testing [...] designed to look for potential defeat devices." They won't tell automakers what those tests are, because they "don't need to know," beyond that they'll require vehicles be in EPA laboratories for longer than they used to.

As for the Volkswagen scandal specifically, the EPA is currently bringing in additional cars in coordination with its equivalent agency in Canada, which has an "excellent laboratory," it says. Affected vehicles have yet to be recalled — the EPA emphasized that again today — but they're looking for "recall solutions." Part of the problem there is undoubtedly that there is no fix that won't negatively impact vehicle performance, which will understandably rub owners the wrong way. The EPA says that it will "carefully scrutinize for impacts to consumers." In the meantime, the cars remain "safe and legal to drive."

No exact timeline was given for fixing those roughly half million 2.0-liter Volkswagen "clean diesels" on US roads.