Products Liability Law Daily California environmental board rejects Volkswagen recall plan, notifies car maker of violations
Wednesday, January 13, 2016

California environmental board rejects Volkswagen recall plan, notifies car maker of violations

By Susan Lasser, J.D.

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has rejected a recall plan submitted by Volkswagen Group of America, Inc. for 2-liter diesel passenger vehicles sold in California between 2009 and 2015 that had a software “defeat device” on them that turned off required emissions control equipment. Volkswagen also was notified that it violated California air quality regulations associated with its use of the device in those cars (California Air Resources Board News Release, January 12, 2016).

On September 18, 2015, CARB and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) notified Volkswagen that it was in violation of state and federal vehicle emissions rules. The violations stemmed from the automaker’s use of the software defeat device on certain Volkswagen diesel vehicles. The federal and state agencies required Volkswagen to develop a recall plan to fix the problem, so that the vehicles would be restored and meet clean air requirements. The car maker submitted its plan on November 5, 2015.

transmittal letter sent to Volkswagen from CARB Executive Officer, Richard Corey, included the agency’s rejection of the automaker’s recall plan, its Notice of Violation (NOV) to Volkswagen of state statutes and regulations, and CARB’s intent to continue technical discussions.

Rejection of Volkswagen recall plan. CARB found Volkswagen’s proposals to be deficient in a number of ways, according to its rejection letter to the manufacturer, as well as an FAQ on its web site, including: Volkswagen’s proposed plans contained gaps and lacked sufficient detail; the descriptions of proposed repairs lacked enough information for a technical evaluation; and the proposals did not adequately address overall impacts on vehicle performance, emissions, and safety. The state agency said that in conjunction with the EPA it would continue to evaluate Volkswagen’s technical proposals to determine if and in what way the affected vehicles could be fixed. It also will address the environmental impact due to the resulting excess NOx emissions, as well as determine the penalties to assess Volkswagen for violations of California air quality regulations. The agency maintained that the enforcement action did not foreclose the possibility of a recall, but rather allowed for “a broader array of potential remedies.” CARB’s rejection only applies to Volkswagen’s diesel 2.0L vehicles, not 3.0L vehicles. Volkswagen’s submission of its recall plan for 3.0L vehicles is due to CARB on February 2, 2016.

Notice of Violation (NOV). The CARB NOV details 13 specific violations of California regulations, including failure to comply with the emission standards or test procedures; invalid certification applications; the use of defeat devices; the importation, delivery, purchase, acquisition, or receipt of uncertified vehicles; the sale of vehicles that do not meet emission standards; and failure to comply with onboard diagnostic (OBD) system requirements. The agency stated that it will continue its investigation and that the NOV could be supplemented or amended, as needed.

Environmental/public health impact. CARB reiterated that the car maker’s defeat devices on its vehicles “have caused substantial excess, illegal, and ongoing emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) from the vehicles,” contributing to ambient ozone and fine particulate matter pollution, which result in serious public health issues for the people of California. CARB asserted that Volkswagen must mitigate the harm that the vehicles at issue have already caused and continue to cause.

EPA reaction and further information. The EPA issued a statement that it agreed with CARB that Volkswagen had not submitted an approvable recall plan that would bring its affected vehicles into compliance and reduce pollution.

Further information on CARB’s Volkswagen investigation may be found on its web site.

MainStory: TopStory MotorVehiclesNews MotorEquipmentNews CaliforniaNews

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