— Volkswagen may be making progress in the U.S. concerning illegal cars with emissions problems, but outside the U.S. the automaker hasn't been able to automatically buy its way out of trouble.
In Europe, VW started allegedly repairing vehicles months ago that have been emitting high levels of nitrogen oxides for the past seven years, but an Italian consumer agency says at least one model isn't being fixed at all. According to Altroconsumo, removing the emissions "defeat devices" from Audi Q5 SUVs increased nitrogen oxide emissions 25 percent above legal standards.
The consumer group already slammed Volkswagen for offering U.S. owners billions of dollars in compensation without offering European customers a cent, so if true, this latest revelation won't help the automaker's case.
VW has declined compensation outside the U.S. by arguing diesel vehicles in Europe could be fixed more easily compared to cars in the U.S., but the Audi Q5 results put VW's arguments on quicksand.
In addition, huge recalls in Germany were temporarily halted months ago based on reports the so-called fix performed by the automaker made negative changes to the fuel economy of the cars.
European consumer organization BEUC released a statement saying the German testing agency that approved the alleged fix should examine the Audi Q5 results and publish the reports to consumers. Volkswagen would then need to devise a new repair procedure and start all over.
European VW customers have always been treated differently than American diesel owners because of loopholes in European emissions laws. Volkswagen says regulations allow software and other "devices" to alter emissions levels on European roads in an effort to protect the engines. And European regulators have admitted as much when they determined millions of cars are equipped with software considered "defeat devices," yet regulators said the diesel vehicles were legal to drive.
Germany Considers Penalties
German regulators told Volkswagen it wouldn't be hit with fines and penalties comparable to the U.S., but Germany is looking at other ways of punishing the automaker.
German authorities originally said it didn't want to fine VW a specific amount per illegal diesel vehicle, something that could number over 10 million vehicles. But now German regulators say VW could be nailed to the floor with penalties based on the profits made on those illegal cars.
Volkswagen is a German company, so the idea of the automaker paying billions in fines is likely out of the question, but the automaker could still be hit with hundreds of millions in penalties based on the sheer number of illegal vehicles sold for seven years.