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Regulatory roadblocks for Volkswagen recalls in India

Volkswagen recall of cars in India stuck due to regulatory hurdles


India’s biggest car recall, announced nine months ago by Volkswagen India, is stuck as the necessary approvals from the research and testing agency Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) have not yet come. Volkswagen’s recall of 323,700 cars was to begin by September.

In January, the carmaker announced the recall across three brands — Volkswagen, Skoda and Audi — which were made between 2008 and November 2015, in India. The recall cannot be initiated till ARAI approves, said industry sources.

“Volkswagen Group India has presented its first set of technical updates proposed for the EA 189 diesel engines in India to the competent authorities and we are currently awaiting approvals. Several brands, various markets and models, different engine variants and gearboxes and various model years have to be considered. These measures have been defined and developed by Volkswagen Group at the headquarters in Germany. At the moment, the updates are being tested, together with the Indian authorities. All of this is a thorough process and that has caused the delay,” said Andreas Lauermann, managing director of Volkswagen India. The company said as soon as the technical measures are approved, it would take the next steps for updating vehicles.

An email sent to ARAI officials remained unanswered. However, ARAI, in a report to the government after the recall announcement, had said that emissions from certain models of Volkswagen were five to nine times more on road than what was permitted.

It has been a year since Volkswagen admitted to fitting millions of cars with software to dupe emissions tests, plunging the German auto giant into one of the biggest scandals to hit the industry.

Following this, Volkswagen India announced the recall in December, as changes had to be made to four engines that belong to the EA189 family. Globally, the company had to recall 11 million cars.

All of Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche and Skoda models had been found to have the emission cheating devices with the TDI diesel engines. The device helped the cars hide emission levels during tests. They were eventually found to have had 40 per cent higher emissions than the levels permitted.

Recalls are also stuck in other markets like the US and Europe as regulators there are yet to approve the proposed fix.

Volkswagen has been negotiating for months with US environmental regulators over how to fix about 600,000 diesel vehicles there. In Europe, it hoped to get off to an easier start. Last month, the company began a recall that would ultimately involve around nine million vehicles, calling on owners to bring in their Amarok light pickup trucks for a simple software fix to make the vehicles compliant with European emissions rules.

The company’s sales in India, too, have been disappointing. Despite the launch of Ameo, it posted a 10 per cent decline in sales in the first seven months of 2016 at 25,000 units.