Volkswagen Assembly Line
Image via Flickr by roger4336

According to Edelman’s 2015 Trust Barometer, companies in the U.S. are quickly approaching the same level of distrust usually reserved for politicians (50 percent versus 48 percent). With the new information being released on Volkswagen’s emission testing, it’s no wonder the public feels that way.

The Volkswagen Emissions Scandal Explained

Between the years of 2009-2015, Volkswagen sold cars with a “TDI” label across its Passat, Golf, Beetle, Jetta, and Jetta SportsWagen models. (The recall may also affect the Audi A3 TDI.) These models received the TDI designation for their turbocharged 2.0L diesel engines, billed as examples of “clean-fuel technology.” The TDI models fitted with the larger engine style are not included in the impending recall.

For the past five years, Volkswagen officials knowingly tampered with its vehicles’ pollution control systems so that they would only run clean during tests. The German automaker installed “defeat devices” on nearly 500,000 diesel models sold in the U.S. These are much more serious allegations than simply not meeting standards. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) believes Volkswagen knowingly tried to conceal issues from consumers and governmental agencies. It’s estimated that the cars emitted over 40 times the federal standard of NOx, a component of smog.

What a Recall Could Mean for Volkswagen

Early estimates place the cost of a recall to fix the problem at about $18 billion, as the EPA can legally assess the manufacturer up to $37,000 per affected car. While the full penalty will most likely not be leveraged, this number does not include the cost of repairs, damage to the company’s reputation, and how it will handle the repairs.

Another problem with a recall of this magnitude is that it does not depend entirely on the manufacturer. Some drivers may refuse to have the repairs done, since the correction will likely impede performance and make the cars less fuel-efficient. California drivers will be forced into a recall when the cars are up for renewal. However, the states of Florida and Texas have the second and third highest numbers of affected drivers and neither of those states require emissions testing.

What You Should Know If You Drive One of the Affected Models

According to a news release from the company on October 8, 2015, “these vehicles do not present a safety hazard and remain safe and legal to drive.” While a recall seems inevitable, nothing is scheduled, and the manufacturer is still assessing the full extent of the problem and determining how they will correct it. Even after they decide how to fix it, tests will be performed before a recall is announced. There are multiple generations of engines involved, and each of the three types will require a different solution.

The company has set up a dedicated service line, and letters have gone out to the affected car owners. The manufacturer promises to remain open in their communication with customers and information regarding their progress on the fix, but it is unclear at this point whether they will lose their loyal following or retain the majority of their customers.

What the Volkswagen Recall Means

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