The California Air Resources Board (CARB) announced late yesterday that it has rejected Volkswagen Group's plan to fix thousands of cars with 3-liter engines that were affected by the company's global emissions cheating scandal. The plan was submitted for approval earlier this year.
CARB says there are about 16,000 Volkswagen, Porsche, and Audi cars with affected 3-liter engines in California. (Volkswagen Group sells Porsche and Audi cars around the world.) There is an estimated 85,000 on the road across the country. They are also not included in the $15 billion settlement that Volkswagen reached last month — that decision was restricted to cars with 2-liter engines that were rigged to beat emissions tests.
CARB sent two letters of notice out with the news of its decision — one regarding Volkswagen and Audi, addressed to the general counsel for Volkswagen US and to the general manager of its Engineering and Environmental Office, the other to Porsche and its regulatory affairs office. In both letters, CARB states that Volkswagen's, Audi's, and Porsche's submissions "are incomplete, substantially deficient, and fall far short of meeting the legal requirements to return these vehicles to the claimed certified configuration."
VW's plan was "incomplete, substantially deficient, and fall[s] far short of meeting the legal requirements"
CARB also details a significant amount of hand-holding it afforded VW through this approval process, which makes it even more surprising that the plan was denied. To wit, Volkswagen first submitted its plan to fix the 3-liter cars on the due date of February 2nd of this year, and CARB almost immediately deemed it incomplete. The board sent a confidential letter back to Volkswagen two weeks later informing the company that its plan was incomplete, and even apparently "reiterated" to Volkswagen "some of what was needed to fully meet the regulatory requirements." Over the next few months, CARB says both Volkswagen and Audi "continued to submit additional significant information and data, both in writing and orally, to CARB" about the 3-liter cars and their deficiencies.
And yet Volkswagen's plan apparently still falls so short of CARB's requirements that the board decided to reject the proposal and issue these letters today. To this day, CARB says that VW, Audi, and Porsche have "failed to disclose and provide a full description of all defeat devices" installed in the affected cars, nor have they described the fix with enough detail that CARB can evaluate wither or not the fix will work.
That the 3.0-liter cars were also cheating emissions tests was discovered about a month after the original 2-liter engine cheating bombshell dropped. It was originally thought that the 3-liter cars could be fixed just by issuing software updates, and that — combined with the fact that there are far fewer of them on the road — they would therefore be less of a problem for Volkswagen. That no longer appears to be the case.
CARB also rejected Volkswagen's original plan to fix the 2-liter cars in January using similar language, claiming that the proposal was riddled with "gaps and a lack of sufficient detail." To this day, there is also still no approved fix for those cars.