WASHINGTON (AP) – Volkswagen plans to withdraw applications seeking U.S. emissions certifications for its 2016 model Jettas, Golfs, Passats and Beetles with diesel engines, the latest hit to the German automaker’s credibility and bottom line.
Thousands of new vehicles already manufactured and shipped to the U.S. will remain quarantined in ports. That’s a huge loss for American VW dealers, who were hoping to put the new models on sale soon in the wake of last month’s admission the company had installed on-board computer software designed to cheat on government emissions tests in nearly 500,000 “clean diesel” cars starting with the 2009 model year.
For some VW dealers, the diesel models accounted for about a third of sales. Tom Backer, general manager of Lash Volkswagen in White Plains, N.Y., said Wednesday his dealership had already lost three deals with potential buyers because he couldn’t get the new cars.
“It’s not good,” said Backer, who said he typically sells only a small number of diesels. “It’s definitely a stain on the brand’s image.”
It was not immediately clear when, or if, the 2016 diesels will be delivered.
The withdrawal of emissions applications was revealed Wednesday in written testimony submitted by Volkswagen Group of America CEO Michael Horn to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. Horn is scheduled to appear before the panel Thursday, and witnesses are typically required to provide a copy of their prepared remarks a day in advance.
Horn’s testimony says VW was withdrawing its applications for the 2016 diesels because they include software that should have been disclosed to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which must certify them for sale in the country. The automaker is working with the EPA and California regulators to continue the certification process, the testimony said.
Thursday’s appearance will be the first on Capitol Hill by Horn, a 51-year-old German and veteran VW manager who took the reins of the brand’s American subsidiary last year. He is expected to face blistering questions about when top executives at the company first learned of the scheme.
VW spokeswoman Jeannine Ginivan told The Associated Press Wednesday that Horn will tell Congress he only learned about the cheating software “over the past several weeks.”
He will also echo prior statements by the company’s global chief executive apologizing for the cheating.
“On behalf of our company, and my colleagues in Germany, I would like to offer a sincere apology for Volkswagen’s use of a software program that served to defeat the regular emissions testing regime,” Horn will say, according to his prepared remarks. “These events are deeply troubling. I did not think that something like this was possible at the Volkswagen Group. We have broken the trust of our customers, dealerships, and employees, as well as the public and regulators.”
Also scheduled to testify Thursday are two officials at the EPA who oversee emissions testing and compliance with clean air rules.
VW first confessed the deception to U.S. regulators on Sept. 3, more than a year after researchers at West Virginia University first published a study showing the real-world emissions of the company’s Jetta and Passat models were far higher than allowed. The same cars had met emissions standards when tested in the lab.
VW was able to fool the EPA because the agency only tested the cars on treadmill-like devices called dynamometers and didn’t use portable test equipment on real roads. The software in the cars’ engine-control computers checked the speed, steering wheel position, air pressure and other factors to determine when dynamometer tests were under way. It then turned on pollution controls that reduced the output of nitrogen oxides that contribute to smog and other pollution, the EPA has said.
Only when the EPA and California regulators refused to approve VW’s 2016 diesel models for sale did the company admit earlier what it had done. The company now faces billions in environmental fines, numerous class-action suits from angry customers, and a criminal investigation launched by EPA and the Justice Department.
Though VW and U.S. regulators have not yet announced a fix for illegal emissions under a nationwide recall, Horn will say the company is “determined to make things right.”
“This includes accepting the consequences of our acts, providing a remedy, and beginning to restore the trust of our customers, dealerships, employees, the regulators, and the American public,” Horn will say, according to his written testimony.
AP Auto Writer Tom Krisher reported from Detroit.
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