FRANKFURT -- Volkswagen Group won approval for the first stage of its recall of 8.5 million VW, Audi, Skoda and Seat vehicles in Europe with rigged diesel engines - while at the same time disputing that the recall means the models have "defeat" devices as defined by EU law.
Germany's Federal Transport Authority (KBA) said on Wednesday that it has given final approval for VW's proposed fixes to versions of the Amarok pickup with 2.0-liter diesel engines. Under EU type approval law, the fix is valid throughout the 28-nation bloc.
"VW can begin the recall and inform the respective owners of these cars," the KBA said in a statement.
The agency said it is still examining VW's plans for other affected models. The Amarok recall will likely be followed by a recall of Passat midsize models with 2.0-liter engines at the end of February or early March, pending KBA approval of the proposed fix.
The KBA in October demanded that VW recall models with 1.2-liter, 1.6-liter and 2.0-liter diesel engines fitted with software designed to cheat on pollution tests for harmful NOX emissions. The agency gave VW preliminary approval for its proposed fixes for the engines in December.
Volkswagen said the fix for the Amarok will not result in any reduction in engine output or fuel efficiency. VW's repair shops already have the software update in preparation to carry out the fix, a VW spokesman told Automotive News Europe.
The spokesman said the European recall was not an admission of wrongdoing by VW because the automaker chose to accept the KBA-mandated recall rather than fight it.
"The notice was sent to us, we did not file an appeal [to contest it], and as a result the notice from the KBA became binding and therefore valid for all of Europe. That does not mean that we arrived at the same legal interpretation," he said.
VW agreed to the recall even though the company believes EU law on the issue is ambiguous, the spokesman said.
VW has admitted fitting manipulated software in up to 11 million diesel-powered models worldwide, including 8.5 million in the EU and 482,000 in the U.S., where the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) first detected the cheating. VW cars had illegal emissions control software designed to make their cars appear cleaner in testing than they are in the real world, the EPA said last September.
VW is still in discussions with the EPA on how to fix its diesel cars affected in the U.S. where NOX emissions limits are stricter than in the EU.
Unlike in the U.S., where diesel owners have been offered $1,000, VW customers in Europe will not get any financial compensation. Instead they will receive free transport to and from the repair shop.
The Amarok pickup is a low volume model in Europe but its 2.0-liter Euro 5 diesel engine comprises the bulk of the models affected by the recall because it is also fitted in about 5.2 million VW Group vehicles in the EU, the company said in a presentation on Dec 11. VW expects the 2.0-liter recall to take about a year.
In the second quarter, the automaker will recall 300,000 diesels with displacement of 1.2 liters also for a software update.
About 3 million VW Group diesels on European roads equipped with 1.6-liter diesels will need a software upgrade and a new part to make them compliant with type approval regulations. VW has said it will install a “flow transformer,” a plastic tube that reduces air intake turbulence. The 1.6-liter engine recall will start in the third quarter to allow time for the parts to be supplied to repair shops.
The software upgrade to the 1.2- and 2.0-liter engines will take about 30 minutes of labor time. The 1.6-liter fix that could take as much as an hour, VW has said.
VW Group's Audi, Skoda and Seat brands will communicate separately their plans for recalls.
The company will have to install more than 1,000 software adaptions for different powertrain combinations in the affected VW, Audi, Skoda and Seat models.