Sunday 25 February 2018

Thousands of Irish drivers in dark as to whether VW recall will affect their cars

Michael Horn, president of Volkswagen America, where the scandal first broke
Michael Horn, president of Volkswagen America, where the scandal first broke
Martin Winterkorn, chief executive officer of Volkswagen, is under serious pressure
Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

The prospect of a global recall of Volkswagens appears to be moving closer after the auto giant admitted 11 million cars could be affected by its emissions cheating scandal.

Volkswagen Ireland is remaining tight-lipped amid speculation that Irish cars might be involved, with a spokesman saying: "We have no further comment to make for now outside of the official statement."

Adding fuel to the speculation was Volkswagen Group chief Martin Winterkorn conceding that he still doesn't "have answers to all the questions at this moment".

As pressure for answers increases, Irish motorists are left to wonder what would happen if affected cars have been sold here. While nothing concrete to suggest that has yet emerged, it would potentially involve several thousand.

That's because the Volkswagen Group in Ireland - which comprises Volkswagen, Audi, Skoda and SEAT - accounts for around one in five new cars sold here each year.

While only a proportion of total sales would have the four-cylinder diesel (EA 189) at the centre of the US scandal, it could affect thousands of models stretching back to 2009.

The cars affected in the US, which is the only guide we have at the moment, are the Volkswagen Jetta, Beetle and Golf, and the Audi A3 from 2009-2015 and the Volkswagen Passat 2014-2015.

The popular diesel models would have been the Jetta, Golf and Passat, with the latter two in particular among the main sellers.

Furthermore, the Passat would have been a popular import and if Ireland is affected by the scam then cars coming from the UK would certainly be as well.

There is no evidence of this based on the limited information from Volkswagen Europe.

But it is deeply disconcerting that it admits the software used in the US was in other diesel engines too.

And while it insists that newer versions, which comply with the latest EU 6 regulations, are not involved, it is not definitively ruling out pre-EU 6 models. That especially is what is giving rise to the uncertainty and speculation.

If Irish cars were affected, it could mean a recall to put things right at Volkswagen's expense.

Owners could, conceivably, look for damages in a class action on the basis that they were sold a vehicle under false pretences. It is unlikely, though, as is taxation on higher emissions being levied retrospectively by the Government.

Vehicle Registration Tax (VRT) and road tax have been based on emissions for new cars since 2008. It would be more likely that governments, including Ireland's, would seek reimbursement from Volkswagen for revenue that should have accrued from higher-emission tax bands. Informed sources suggest that is one reason Volkswagen has set aside €6.5bn "to deal with the issue".

A spokesman for Environment Minister Alan Kelly told the Irish Independent that the scandal potentially raises two issues: the implications for air quality and the possible impact on targets for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Revenue said it had no comment on the issue.

Irish Independent

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