California regulators said Tuesday they have rejected Volkswagen's recall plan for some of its most popular diesel models, including the Passat and the Jetta, that used software to intentionally deceive government emissions tests.
The California Air Resources Board said the recall plan was unacceptable for a variety of reasons, including:
- It did not adequately identify the affected vehicles.
- It did not include a sufficient method for obtaining the car owners' names and address.
- It did not include adequate information on how the fix would affect future emissions results.
The state agency also issued a formal notice of violation against the German automaker.
- U.S. Justice Department sues Volkswagen for emissions rigging
- From Bell to VW, shareholders pay for executive sins: Don Pittis
Other models covered under the rejected recall plan include the Beetle and Jetta SportWagen.
The rejection only applied to 2.0-litre diesel engines registered in California — 75,688 vehicles from model years 2009 to 2015, according to state officials.
A recall plan for 3.0-litre diesel engines, including some sold under the VW-owned Audi and Porsche brands, is due to state regulators next month.
"VW's submissions are incomplete, substantially deficient and fall far short of meeting the legal requirements," Annette Herbert, head of the agency's emissions compliance, automotive regulations and science division wrote in a letter to VW executives.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which is also investigating VW, issued a statement saying it agreed with California regulators but was operating on a different timetable.
VW says recall still possible
In a statement, VW said it was continuing to work with both state and federal regulators and the rejection of its recall plan Tuesday did not mean a recall would not occur.
"Today's announcement addresses the initial recall plans Volkswagen submitted ... in December," the statement read. "Since then, Volkswagen has had constructive discussions with CARB, including last week when we discussed a framework to remediate the[diesel] emissions issue."
California's move comes a day before the German automaker's top executive, CEO Matthias Mueller, is set to have a private meeting with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy in Washington.
Both VW and EPA declined Tuesday to provide any further detail about what the two will discuss, or even what time the meeting will take place. But federal regulators have not shied away in recent days from publicly expressing their frustration with the company.
Asked about the issue at a public appearance last week, McCarthy said EPA has yet to identify "a satisfactory way forward" toward a fix for the owners of VW's diesel cars.
"We are really anxious to find a way for that company to get into compliance, and we're not there yet," McCarthy said.
Last week, the U.S. Justice Department, representing EPA, filed a civil suit that could potentially expose VW to more than $20 billion in fines under the Clean Air Act. VW could rack up additional civil penalties based on facts determined at trial. A separate criminal investigation is under way, and numerous private class-action lawsuits filed by VW owners are pending.
VW first admitted in September that the suspect software was installed in cars with its popular 2.0-litre diesel engines. The company has thus far denied findings by U.S. regulators that another so-called "defeat device" was also included in a smaller number of diesel vehicles with 3.0-litre engines, including some sold under the VW-owned Audi and Porsche brands.