The managing director of Volkswagen Group Australia, Michael Bartsch, said today that key differences in regional laws and regulations, in relation to the ongoing 'dieselgate' scandal, are being ignored.
Speaking today after news of a massive $20 billion settlement with Volkswagen owners and government departments in the United States, Bartsch said: “It is regrettable that interested parties ignore the polar differences between emission regulations in the United States and Australia. This only adds to public confusion".
Bartsch reiterated his statement issued yesterday in the lead-up to today's news, emphasising that the outcome of ongoing investigation and litigation in the US is a result of the country's markedly more aggressive and distinctly different regulations on vehicle emissions.
“Regulations governing nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions limits for vehicles in the United States are much stricter than those in other parts of the world and the engine variants also differ significantly. European and Australian standards focus on lowering environmentally harmful carbon monoxide emissions and fuel consumption.
“New Volkswagen vehicles on sale in Australia – petrol and diesel – continue easily to meet the prevailing Euro 5 standard for emissions.”
Volkswagen Group Australia maintains its position that the software upgrade being rolled out to vehicles here through a multistage voluntary recall is, in Bartsch's words, "the best outcome for its customers".
The company is legally unable to comment on the matter of compensation being sought by some Australian owners in a class action, but Bartsch noted that customers in Europe are not being offered compensation.
“The relevant facts and complex legal issues that have played a role in coming to these agreements in the United States are materially different from those in Europe and Australia," he said.
“Volkswagen is committed to resolving the diesel matter for all affected customers around the world quickly and efficiently. We recognise the need to regain their trust and we are doing everything possible to achieve this.”
Above: Michael Bartsch succeeded John White as Volkswagen Australia's managing director last year.
The company's efforts on that front, so far, have not been good enough for some. Speaking with CarAdvice this week, NRMA media manager Peter Khoury said Volkswagen Group Australia is "failing" its customers.
"We have been hugely critical of the way Volkswagen has handled this violence," Khoury said. "They're failing in the manner in which they treat the customer, in the manner in which they have conducted the recall, in the manner in which they've compensated - or haven't compensated - the public."
"And when you look at the United States example, and you compare it to what has happened here, you start to see how poorly they must consider their customers here in Australia."
Responding to those comments today, Volkswagen Group Australia communications manager Paul Pottinger said: “It really is disappointing that the NRMA seems not to appreciate the polar differences between the emission regulations of this country and those of the United States.”
Rather than the specific aspects of Australian emissions regulations, which Volkswagen Group vehicles are not in violation of, related class action suits in Australia are focused on a potential impact on resale values, and on Australian Consumer Laws that require a vehicle be free of defects when sold new.
Although the company cannot discuss details of an ongoing legal action, Pottinger told CarAdvice today that the company continues to monitor the market and has not found evidence of any effect on resale values that are not a result of "seasonal fluctuation".
"We have no information at all that resale has been affected," he said. "We're not seeing anything other than seasonal fluctuation."
Likewise with new-car sales, the Volkswagen brand's results in Australia have dipped only slightly in the past 12 months, sitting at the end of May 2016 on 23,876 year-to-date, compared to 24,917 for the same period in 2015. And, even without the impact of 'dieselgate', the company would not necessarily have expected growth this period.
"We need an SUV, and we need it yesterday," Pottinger said. "We need the [new] Tiguan yesterday. [The new] Touareg isn't going to be with us for sometime yet, but the new Tiguan is now a bigger SUV than it was previously. It's a game-changing SUV, it will shake up segments."
As for the recall, action on the Amarok ute - the first model to be recalled in Australia - is underway now, and Volkswagen Group Australia has submitted a schedule for the next series of recall notices to the Department of Industry and Regional Development.
The voluntary recall applies only to some EA189 series diesel engines built between 2008-2015.