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California ARB rejects VW 2-liter diesel recall plan and issues Notice of Violation

The California Air Resources Board (ARB) is rejecting VW’s submitted recall plan for 2-liter diesel passenger vehicles sold in California between 2009 and 2015 which were sold with the software defeat devices. It also notified VW of violations of California air quality regulations associated with the company’s use of a defeat device in those cars.

This rejection only applies to VW’s diesel 2.0L vehicles, not 3.0L vehicles. The submission of the recall plan for 3.0L vehicles is due to ARB on 2 February 2016. ARB made public three separate official documents related to its actions: A transmittal letter signed by Executive Officer Richard W. Corey; the rejection of VW’s submitted recall plan; and the formal Notice of Violation. ARB said that VW’s recall plan fell short in a number of areas, including:

  • Adequately identifying and describing the affectd vehicles;
  • Adequately describing the nonconformities of affected vehicles;
  • Including a sufficient method for obtaining owners’ names, addresses and related information;
  • Sufficiently decribing the remedial procedure;
  • Containing a notification letter;
  • Specifying the system by which VW will ensure the availability of sufficient repair parts;
  • Including repair instructions;
  • Containing the impact of the proposed fixes on fuel economy, drivability, performance and safety;
  • Providing an estimated capture rate in California;
  • Describing the impact of the repairs on emissions, particularly average noncompliance levels, average emissions reduction per pollutant, and an average emission level after implementation of the proposed fixes;
  • Demonstrating how the proposed fixes are designed to correct the problem;
  • Providing OBD demonstration data;
  • Demonstrating how the plans will fix the problem expeditiously; and
  • Providing sufficient detail for ARB to evaluate the feasibility and success of the proposed plans.

CARB considers three of the deficiencies in VW’s proposed influenced emission recall plans to be the most serious. First, VW fails to describe the noncomformities in sufficient detail for CARB to adequately understand them in the context of the recall plans, in order to determine whether the proposed fixes are feasible or would remedy each of the nonconformities. Second, VW fails to specifically describe the fixes in its proposed recall plans in a manner that allows CARB to adequately evaluate whether they could be successful or are even technically feasible. Third, the proposed plans do not sufficiently address impacts on the engine, the vehicle’s overall operation, and all related emission control technologies, including the OBD system.

—Rejection letter

Today’s actions do not preclude a recall, but allow for “a broader array of potential remedies,” ARB said. CARB will continue its investigation and technical evaluations with EPA to return the vehicles to legally required emission levels, determine mitigation for past and future environmental harm, and assess penalties.

On 18 September 2015, ARB issued an In-use Compliance Letter to the company listing violations and giving them 45 business days to submit a proposal to recall and repair the affected vehicles. US EPA issued a Notice of Violation to the company on the same day. The defeat devices were installed on VW’s 2.0L diesel vehicles manufactured for model year (MY) 2009 through MY 2015 to circumvent CARB and EPA emission test procedures.

This made it possible for VW to obtain Executive Orders from CARB and Certificates of Conformity from EPA for these vehicles so the vehicles could be sold in California. As a result, the certifications were illegally obtained.

Notice of Violation. The NOV details 13 specific violations of California regulations, including failure to comply with the emission standards or test procedures; invalid certification applications; the use of Defeat Devices; the importation, delivery, purchase, acquisition, or receipt of uncertified vehicles; the sale of vehicles that do not meet emission standards; and failure to comply with onboard diagnostic (OBD) system requirements.

ARB will continue its investigation. The NOV may be supplemented or amended, as needed.


Nick Lyons

Amazingly, VW continues to demonstrate a lack of commitment to actually fixing the cheating cars. Either that, or there really is no viable solution short of buying back the affected vehicles, and they haven't come to terms with that yet.


An immediate buyback and an agreement for minimum penalties would get the cars off the streets with no further environmental damages and wouldn't bankrupt the company.

This rejection, following closely on Mueller's statement a few days ago to NPR that VW "did not lie" about the emissions cheats [it was a misunderstanding of the regulations (!)] change completely my estimation of VW's ability to quickly fix the problem and move on to an electric zero-emissions future.

Especially sad for VW dealerships and honest VW employees, who will continue to be impaired by the dishonor.

This is going to get a lot worse before it gets better.

Dr. Strange Love

LAD. I like your proposal. Special interests (legal) will push hard against this.

VW will be slow to develop and respond to this problem. We are inclined to feel sorry for them. It is a muddy situation.


Lad, I don't think the cars are rolling down the street killing babies in their cribs, and if they are, then there is a far larger fleet of coal-rolling diesel pickups that will also need to be pried from their owners' cold, dead fingers. This is not a panic-button public health issue... more like a regulatory-compliance public health issue.

The real issue is the cheating, and on that there can be no quarter from CARB and the EPA: VW must play by the same rules as everyone else in the market, and must pay the price (plus penalties) to retroactively fix, or buy back, the cars they've already sold.

(After that, can we fix the rules so I don't have to look out the window of my TDI while in traffic... squarely into the soot-belching five inch exhaust pipe of the truck in the next lane over?)


Eddy, many states have laws in place to catch rolling coal. They just lack man power and commitment to catch the people.

There are many ways to cheat emissions requirement. Either by mechanically changing the system, tuning etc.

I like the way Mo. Does thier registration in certain municipalities. There is a safety check, and an obd-I &II emissions check. It's not perfect it let all the cheating VWs through no problem. But it could easily deter most end users from changing their cars.

The rolling coal thing will work itself out in time. Newer diesels are getting to the point where it's hard to go in and change parameters for the sake of tuning and soot, that and there is a lot of expensive emissions equipment to remove and replace every time people want to modify thier vehicle and then renew the plates on it.

Also soot doesn't add much power, the aftermarket dialed in ones should have little soot and little change to emissions with maybe an increase of NOx for the increased cylinder pressures.(which urea could handle)

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