My VW Was Recalled For Emissions Issues In April, Does That Mean It’s Fixed?

Image courtesy of California resident Jan bought a 2014 VW Sportwagen after researching the car and its good-for-the-environment persona.
California resident Jan bought a 2014 VW Sportwagen after researching the car and its good-for-the-environment persona.

California resident Jan bought a 2014 VW Jetta Sportwagen TDI after researching the car and its good-for-the-environment persona.

When Consumerist reader Jan bought her 2014 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen with a “clean diesel” engine, the thought she was going to get great gas mileage and maybe help the environment. Sure, there was an emissions-related recall earlier this year, but she had that fixed at the dealership. Except, as she’s learning in the wake of the latest VW recall, her car is still in need of fixing.

Jan’s story is like that of about 472,000 consumers who also own VW and Audi vehicles that the Environmental Protection Agency says contain “defeat devices” that only turn on a vehicle’s full emissions control system when it’s being tested. So a car using this software might be producing more pollution than state and federal standards allow when it’s on the road.

What makes Jan’s story a little different is that back in April she was one of thousands of California residents to receive a recall notice [PDF] from VW saying her car was in need of an “emissions service action.”

“When I got the recall notice in April, I was a little suspicious,” Jan says. A friend of hers who received a similar notice was also concerned.

We now know this recall was an attempt by the carmaker to stave off federal regulators who were questioning discrepancies in lab tests and real world emission levels for the vehicles.

Like thousands of others presumably did, Jan took her car to the dealer [PDF] for the software upgrade.

“When I took it in at the dealer, they said they just had to update computers, so I didn’t think much of it,” she says of the fix administered in June.

Five days later she took it to be smog tested. California requires vehicles be tested every two years. It passed and she has a certificate of correction that says her car is in tip-top emissions shape.

But in the wake of the Sept. 18 EPA order recalling model year 2009 to 2015 Volkswagen Jetta, Beetle, Golf, and Audi A3, as well as model year 2014 to 2015 Volkswagen Passat sedans for violating the Clean Air Act, the question is now: Was Jan’s car really repaired?

Jan says she’s been told by other VW owners and in news reports that while the car company took the lead back in April, there are now questions whether or not that software update fixed anything.

“I am kind of suspicious – when I took it in in June and they did the update, does that mean they fixed the issue [of bypassing emissions tests] or did they do something else?” asks Jan. “Does that mean my car’s okay?”

In short: no.

Dave Clegern, a spokesperson with the California Air Resources Board, tells Consumerist that the April recall was part of a 2014 agreement between the manufacturer, the EPA and CARB to fix what VW deemed a “technical glitch.”

“They told us it would fix the testing anomalies we found, but it did not,” he says.

For now, Clegern says consumers such as Jan should sit tight.

“At this point consumers don’t need to do anything. We’re meeting with VW to fully understand the scope and impact of what they’ve done,” he tells Consumerist. “They must then bring us a fix which is viable from an engineering standpoint. At that point we will tell them to go forward with a recall. When a consumer receives that letter, they should get the repair done.”

Of course, consumers such Jan who feel they were tricked into buying their car can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, and may want to consider doing the same through their particular state’s attorney general’s office.

“You try to do something good, especially in California with the smog issue,” Jan says. “You try to walk softly on the earth, the thought of driving around in a gross polluter doesn’t make me very happy.”

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