Whew, what a day.
Several announcements were made Thursday regarding new and ongoing issues related to three different automakers — and they were quite substantial.
These evolving matters include an update on Volkswagen’s diesel situation, the final report on General Motors’ ignition switch compensations to those affected, and a civil penalty brought against Fiat Chrysler Automobiles by NHTSA.
Starting in Wolfsburg, Germany, Volkswagen AG hosted a conference call early in the day (EST), outlining its continued efforts to realign the company and its brands for increased economic efficiency and transparency to get it back on track financially and regain confidence with its customer base.
While VW AG’s leadership discussed several topics encompassing its current internal and external investigations into both its European CO2-emissions issues as well as its multi-national NOx-emissions issues, one key item of discussion will likely be most important to dealers in the United States: There is still no concrete emedy in place to fix the North American diesel vehicles.
According to a statement by VW, the company said that “due to far stricter nitrogen oxide limits in the United States, it is a greater technical challenge to retrofit the vehicles such that all applicable emissions limits can be met with one and the same emissions strategy.”
While VW officials noted their plans to have the European variants of the TDI engines repaired have been approved by the appropriate authorities and will be handled in various fashions over the course of 2016, VW’s plan for a North American remedy is still awaiting approval from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board.
What VW did do, however, is accept the blame for the diesel deceit. A statement from the company explains how it all played out:
The information that has been screened to date has largely explained the origin and development of the nitrogen oxide issue. It proves not to have been a one-time error, but rather a chain of errors that were allowed to happen. The starting point was a strategic decision to launch a large-scale promotion of diesel vehicles in the United States in 2005. Initially, it proved impossible to have the EA 189 engine meet by legal means the stricter nitrogen oxide requirements in the United States within the required timeframe and budget. This led to the incorporation of software that adjusted nitrogen oxide emission levels according to whether vehicles were on the road or being tested. Later, when an effective technical process was available to reduce NOx emissions, it was not employed to the full extent possible. On the contrary, the software in question allowed the exhaust gas treatment additive “AdBlue” to be injected in variable amounts such that the NOx values were particularly low when vehicles were in the test bay, but significantly higher when vehicles were on the road.
Hans Dieter Potsch, the chairman of the supervisory board of VW AG, said that, “No business transaction justifies overstepping legal and ethical bounds.”
“I here and now guarantee that we will pursue our thorough investigation to its conclusion,” Potsch said. “I vouch for this personally, as does the entire supervisory board of Volkswagen AG.”
Final report on GM ignition switch compensation released
Kenneth Feinberg, the attorney heading the compensation process for General Motors, released his final report on Thursday, revealing how many claims were submitted and approved in the ignition switch settlement.
The findings of the report conclude that 124 people were killed in relation to the faulty ignition switches in GM’s compact vehicles. Another 275 were approved to receive compensation for their injuries. The total compensation for payouts from the GM fund that Feinberg administered come out to a total of $594.5 million.
A total of 4,343 claims were submitted to the automaker – less than 10 percent were deemed eligible.
Auto Remarketing reached out to GM on Thursday for an official comment on the findings but has not received a response at the time of this writing.
To check out a full breakdown of the findings, click here.
NHTSA imposes $70 million penalty against FCA
In other news related to recent manufacturer challenges, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued FCA a $70 million civil penalty on Thursday, citing the company’s failure to report legally required safety data as the impetus.
The penalty befalls FCA following its September admission that it has failed, over the course of several years, to provide Early Warning Report data to NHTSA as required by the TREAD Act of 2000. The administration uses this data, among others, to identify and investigate potential defects that may require a safety recall.
According to NHTSA, FCA has commissioned a third-party audit to determine the full extent of the reporting failures.
“Accurate, early-warning reporting is a legal requirement, and it’s also part of a manufacturer’s obligation to protect the safety of the traveling public,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “We need FCA and other automakers to move toward a stronger, more proactive safety culture, and when they fall short, we will continue to exercise our enforcement authority to set them on the right path.”
FCA isn’t alone in this realm, however – the company is the fifth automotive manufacturer to be penalized by NHTSA in the last 14 months for failure to meet early warning reporting requirements. These previous penalties have been issued to Honda, Ferrari, Triumph, Forest River and Spartan Motors.