Audi, Volkswagen, Porsche caught rigging emissions again

Audi Volkswagen Korea and Porsche Korea will face criminal charges and hefty fines as the companies were found to have engaged in emission rigging involving their eight top selling models, according to the Ministry of Environment Tuesday.

Industry officials said the decision will deal a heavy blow to Audi Volkswagen Korea, which is still suffering from the fallout of Dieselgate, and result in a setback for Porsche Korea’s steady growth.

According to the ministry, it has found the emission rigging in 10,261 vehicles sold from May 2015 to January last year. The eight models were three Audi A6s, two Audi A7s, two Volkswagen Touaregs and one Porsche Cayenne.

The ministry said the licenses of those eight models were revoked immediately, and it imposed a correction order and fines on Audi Volkswagen Korea and Porsche Korea, as well as filing criminal suits against them.

The ministry said fines can go up to 7.9 billion won ($6.54 million) for Audi Volkswagen and 4 billion won for Porsche Korea, and it is still determining the final amount.

The ministry said those cars’ AdBlue injection system was manipulated to spray less fluid under certain conditions. AdBlue is an exhaust fluid comprised of urea and water that is injected into the car’s exhaust system to reduce the amount of nitrogen oxide emissions. The ministry said it confirmed manipulated cars emitted a volume of harmful nitrogen oxide 10 times greater than that emitted by other cars.

“The ministry understands the public’s concerns over diesel vehicles’ emissions rigging cases which have been continuing since 2015,” a ministry official said. “It will cope with illegal emission controls with a strict manner to reduce the country’s fine dust level.”

The ministry’s move is expected to deal an additional blow to Audi Volkswagen Korea’s sales, which has been suffering sharp declines so far this year.

Audi sold 2,560 vehicles in the first half of this year, down 48.9 percent from a year earlier. During the same period, Volkswagen also ended up delivering 1,775 vehicles, down 66.3 percent from a year earlier. In April, the two brands sold no vehicles at all.

This was because they were out of inventories in the fallout of Dieselgate and saw the licensing of their new models was delayed. Seeking a rebound, Audi Volkswagen Korea recently began preorders for the new Q7 and the new A5, but the ministry’s fines are expected to affect consumer sentiment on the brand again.

Over the ministry’s announcement, Audi Volkswagen Korea said in a statement that “it has been cooperating with the environment ministry to address this issue before the announcement and already submitted plans for recalls to the ministry.”

“We humbly accept the ministry’s decision and will make efforts to get our recall plans to be approved by the ministry,” an Audi Volkswagen Korea official said. “Also, we will take all necessary measures to minimize customer inconvenience.”

A Porsche Korea official said it is waiting for the ministry’s direction to address this issue.