The EPA announced Monday that the Volkswagen Group’s diesel emissions crisis has been expanded after it found that diesel V-6 engines in six models, three cars and three SUVs, also had devices meant to thwart emissions testing. The allegations charge that these vehicles employ emissions software that foils testing but allows more pollution in real-world driving. Previously, all the vehicles involved had only the diesel four-cylinder engines.
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The EPA’s latest charges affect diesel V-6 versions of the 2014 Volkswagen Touareg SUV, 2015 Porsche Cayenne SUV and four 2016 Audi vehicles: the A6 and A8 sedans (including A8L), the A7 hatchback and the Q5 SUV.
That adds up to 10,000 cars and SUVs sold in the U.S. since the 2014 model year, plus “an unknown volume of 2016 vehicles,” the EPA said.
Officials said they found the violations during additional emissions testing that they said they would conduct alongside Canadian officials for all mass-market diesel vehicles sold in the U.S. The EPA has “not identified any additional vehicles” that failed the tests, said Janet McCabe, the acting assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation.
The EPA has not yet ordered a recall, McCabe said, but the EPA’s violation notice says VW must fix the diesel V-6’s emissions system, which constitutes an illegal “defeat device” and violates the Clean Air Act.
The automaker’s immediate reaction reflects bewilderment.
Volkswagen said it “wishes to emphasize that no software has been installed in the 3-liter V6 [sic] diesel power units to alter emissions characteristics in a forbidden manner,” according to a statement issued to Cars.com. Porsche, meanwhile, said it’s “surprised to learn this information. Until this notice, all of our information was that the Porsche Cayenne Diesel is fully compliant.”
VW and Porsche said they would cooperate with authorities.
The four-cylinder diesel issue “was something that Volkswagen admitted it had done improperly,” Audi spokesman Brad Stertz told us. “In this case, we’re not entirely sure what data EPA is using to draw its conclusion.”
The diesel V-6s allegedly have selective emissions-control devices that limit nitrogen oxide pollutants when they sense the car is being tested for emissions compliance. The software transitions back to a normal mode “exactly one second” after initial testing is complete, said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for the Office for EPA’s Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. The normal mode results in pollutant levels up to nine times the EPA’s allowable standard, Giles said.
Nitrogen oxide is a known pollutant that’s been linked to asthma and other respiratory problems, especially among children and the elderly.
Audi isn’t going to issue a stop-sale right now, Stertz added, “but we’re reacting to further discussions and further understanding of the EPA’s position.”
It’s unclear if the violation will prompt a stop-sale order for other diesel V-6s, as Volkswagen did in late September for its diesel four-cylinder models. EPA officials said the agency isn’t in a position to comment on what a manufacturer will elect to do, and neither VW nor Porsche said whether they’re going to stop any sales.
It’s also unclear why the EPA only implicated select model years for the group — or why, for example, the 2015 Touareg diesel isn’t included in the violation. The notice “only alleges violations for [those] particular models,” Giles said. But Volkswagen Group’s 3.0-liter diesel V-6 has been placed into other model years for all six cars.
McCabe said the vehicles remain safe to drive and “no action is required” from owners for now.