Although Volkswagen confirmed in December that none of its Australian-market vehicles produce more carbon dioxide (CO2) than claimed, the company is right now battling a class action brought by thousands of owners here in Australia.
Last week, Volkswagen Group Australia (VGA) issued a statement promising that a crucial software upgrade for around 77,000 vehicles remains its top priority. The company said that customers will be contacted when their vehicle is due to be updated, but that owners needn't fear for the safety, performance or efficiency of their car in the meantime.
"This procedure does not have any material impact on vehicle performance, driving characteristics, fuel economy or compliance with emissions standards. This has been demonstrated in the vehicles for which the upgrade has already been implemented," VGA managing director Michael Bartsch said.
“The important thing customers need to know is that the affected vehicles are safe to drive now and will remain safe to drive after they are updated.”
Today, the company has released an update that calls on owners of the Amarok ute to make contact with their dealers so that the update can be carried out. The Amarok is the first model to be recalled locally, with around 8000 vehicles affected.
The ongoing class action means that Volkswagen will not comment on the potential for compensation to owners, although Bartsch said that the situation in Australia should not be compared to the US.
“The striking differences between US and Australian regulations have gone largely unreported,” Bartsch said. “US regulations are unique in the world in that they are very significantly lower than European standards in terms of NOx levels."
“Euro, and hence Australian, standards are built around lowering environmentally harmful carbon emissions and fuel consumption. We believe that the best outcome for concerned Australian customers is the free and simple software update."
Australia's current vehicle emissions standards mean that the company has not contravened emissions-specific requirements in this market. This means that, unlike its situation in markets with tighter emissions regulations, Volkswagen's Australian recall is a voluntary one.
In the US, Volkswagen is understood to have agreed to pay a sum most recently reported at nearly $20 billion in penalties and compensation for that market alone. Details of a settlement are expected to be made official and public in the coming hours.
Although Volkswagen Group Australia is legally unable to comment to the media on the topic of compensation, the Australian Automobile Association (AAA) has called on the company to offer some sort of payment to owners as a gesture.
"[...] There’s nothing to stop Volkswagen showing some good will to Australians unwittingly caught up in this situation and providing a payment along the lines of what they have agreed to provide American Volkswagen Group vehicle owners," AAA chief executive Michael Bradley said this week.
Any response from Volkswagen Group Australia will likely need to wait until the current class action is concluded, although it is possible that the settlement expected to occur in the US tomorrow will free the local arm to speak further.
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