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Volkswagen scandal to hit India too [Dec 01, 2015]

Since a long time Indian buyers of the VW and Skoda were fearful whether the International scandal would hit them or not. And now it seems that their worst fears have come true. Volkswagen India is bracing itself to initiate a recall of over 3,20,000 of its cars affected by the diesel emissions scandal. The affected cars include all cars powered by the EA189 diesel engine family and this is around 2,10,000 VWs, around 80,000 Skodas and over 30,000 Audis.

VW India has admitted to the Ministry of Transport that around 3,14,000 cars were carrying the ‘defeat devices’ or software that was designed to allow cars to cheat on emission tests. That number is likely to rise as both VW and Skoda have continued to sell cars in India with the software in question.

Andreas Lauermann, President and Managing Director, Volkswagen India Private Limited told  that the company’s solution for most of the engines affected by the diesel emissions scandal is the same as the one used in Europe.

In Europe, Volkswagen has detailed measures that involve a software update to fix the largest 2.0-litre engines, while the midsized 1.6-litre (and the downsized 1.5-litre units for India) will require both a software update and a hardware change. The latter being a small plastic filter or a mesh that will be placed inside the engine's air intake. Volkswagen estimates that updating the software on the 2.0-litre engine will take only about half an hour while the fix for the midsized engine will take around one hour. The company is still working out the remedy for the 1.2-litre motor. The carmaker claims neither solution will impact engine performance or fuel economy. However, these claims are unverified as of now.

The software used in the affected cars had been globally sourced from three suppliers. The 1.2-litre three cylinder motor, which was phased out last year in India and replaced by the 1.5-litre four-cylinder diesel engine, was fitted with software sourced from Delphi Automotive, while the current models having the larger powertrain are fitted with software provided by Bosch and Continental Automotive Systems.

While the installation of the software is definitely illegal, the key question here is whether the affected cars violated Indian emission standards. The Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) is conducting tests at the Vehicle Research & Development Establishment (VRDE), Ahmednagar to ascertain whether the cars' on-road emissions flouted Indian BS IV norms. In fact, ARAI might even widen the investigation to other car manufacturers as well.

Sources involved with the testing have revealed that the affected cars are emitting up to three times more NOx compared to the levels tested during the approval stage, as against 40 times in the US.

However, it is widely accepted that in real-world conditions, cars will always emit more emissions than in a laboratory and what the government now has to determine is if the quantum of higher emissions is tantamount to a gross violation of the specified BS IV standards in India.

The final decision is likely to be taken after the carmaker meets the government officials on December 1, 2015.

Meanwhile, the National Green Tribunal has today sought response from the central government and Volkswagen Group on a plea seeking a ban on manufacture and sale of Volkswagen’s cars in the country for allegedly flouting emission norms. It has asked them to reply by December 23, 2015.

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