SEOUL, Oct. 1 (Korea Bizwire) — German carmaker Volkswagen is expected to recall about 120,000 vehicles sold in South Korea in connection with a deepening diesel emissions scandal, market sources said Thursday.
On Wednesday, Audi Volkswagen Korea, the local unit of the German carmaker, submitted its latest sales figures, detailed information about the so-called defeat device and corrective measures to be taken to the environment ministry here, according to the sources.
The corrective measures can include a recall of the vehicles equipped with the software that has been found to alter engine performance when a vehicle is being checked, which can lead to lower-than-actual harmful emission levels. This has led to predictions of massive recalls and astronomical fines being slapped on the German carmaker in the U.S., they added.
According to imported vehicle data, Volkswagen and Audi vehicles whose emission results are suspected of being faked before sold in South Korea came to about 90,000 units and 30,000 units, respectively. They include the Golf, Jetta, Beetle and Passat of Volkswagen and the A3, A4, A5 and Q5 of Audi.
If all of the affected cars are recalled, it would be the single largest action taken against a foreign carmaker for emission-related problems.’
A spokesman in charge of the Audi brand here declined to elaborate on the matter. A spokesman for Volkswagen said that he is “not in a position to talk” when the environment ministry started its own investigation.
The emission rigging scandal erupted in mid-September when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency revealed that Volkswagen used software that activates emission controls only when the car is going through official testing in a bid to fake test results and pass strict emission standards.
The world’s No. 1 carmaker that has such brands as Audi, Skoda, Bentley and Bugatti admitted to the accusation and was ordered to recall about 500,000 vehicles in the U.S. alone. It also admitted that about 11 million cars sold globally might be equipped with the “defeat device.”
South Korean authorities are joining other countries in intensifying a probe into suspected imported model.
Seoul’s environment ministry said that it has launched its own probe into four suspected Volkswagen and Audi models over a potential emissions scam. Subject to investigation are the Golf, the Jetta, the Beetle and the A3, which were allowed to be imported after meeting the Euro 6 standards.
It said that the cars tested will not only be tested on the dynamometer, but be driven on the road.
The results of the probe will likely be announced next month, it added.
“Depending on the results, cars can be banned from being sold in the country, have their vehicle certification revoked and fines could be levied as well as cars being recalled for mechanical updates,” a ministry official said.
Once tests on Volkswagen vehicles are concluded, screening will be expanded to include diesel cars made by other foreign carmakers as well as those by local companies such as Hyundai Motor Co., Kia Motors Corp. and GM Korea, the government said, adding that these tests are to be carried out in December.
The National Assembly in Seoul is also set to investigate the case as it has asked Johannes Thammer, head of Audi Volkswagen Korea, and Thomas Kuehl, head of Volkswagen Korea, along with high-ranking officials from other companies, to attend a parliamentary audit scheduled for next week as witnesses.
Concerns are being raised that the emission rigging scandal that hit Volkswagen could spill over into the overall import market in South Korea as it could hurt customer trust in all European brands, which account for about 80 percent of car imports.
On Wednesday, two owners of Volkswagen vehicles sued the German carmaker, demanding their purchase contracts based on deception be annulled. Their lawyers said that similar cases will likely follow in the wake of the first legal action in the country in connection with the emissions cheating scandal.