More bad news for VW….
FRANKFURT – Volkswagen Group CEO Matthias Mueller faces a crucial meeting today with U.S. regulators to discuss ways out of its emissions-cheating crisis, a day after the California Air Resources Board rejected its initial proposed diesel engine fix.
California spurned the automaker’s December recommendation for how to fix 2.0-liter diesel engines as “incomplete.”
VW said it will present a reworked plan to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) at the meeting in Washington. Mueller is scheduled to meet with EPA chief Gina McCarthy and members of Congress this morning.
VW is in the midst of complex technical talks with the California board and counterparts at the EPA about how to repair about 480,000 diesel cars. The EPA said Tuesday it agreed that VW’s plan can’t be approved.
“The message from the regulators to VW couldn’t be clearer — you need to come up with a better plan,” said Frank O’Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, a Washington environmental group. “VW has mistakenly thought it could resolve this on the cheap.”
On its website, California said it determined that there was “no easy and expeditious fix for the affected vehicles.”
“Volkswagen made a decision to cheat on emissions tests and then tried to cover it up,” Mary Nichols, chairwoman of the state board, said in an emailed statement. “They need to make it right.”
Volkswagen responded that it had asked California last month for an extension to submit additional information and data about the turbocharged direct injection, or TDI, diesel engines.
“Since then, Volkswagen has had constructive discussions with CARB, including last week when we discussed a framework to remediate the TDI emissions issue,” VW said in an emailed statement.
The California board said it and the EPA will continue to evaluate VW’s technical proposals.
The rejection closely followed a bumble by Mueller on Sunday, before the Detroit auto show. During an interview with National Public Radio, the CEO appeared to dismiss the crisis by saying VW “didn’t lie” to regulators about what amounts to a “technical problem.”
When the interview aired Monday morning, VW asked NPR for a do-over, where Mueller blamed a noisy atmosphere for his earlier comments. He apologized on behalf of the automaker, hewing more closely to comments he had made in a Detroit speech on Sunday night.
On Monday evening, Mueller had dinner with U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn. VW has a manufacturing plant in Chattanooga, which is undergoing a major expansion. Corker said VW views the meeting with EPA as “very important.”
“They understand fully the order of magnitude of mistakes that have been made and my sense is they are very committed to resolving this in an appropriate way,” Corker said in an interview Tuesday, before the California board announced it had rejected VW’s recall plan.