DEARBORN, Mich. – Volkswagen plans to offer two new U.S. models every year for the foreseeable future and double the length of its warranties as it tries to attract new customers and recover from a 2015 emissions-cheating scandal.
Hinrich Woebcken, the German automaker’s top U.S. executive, announced the main planks of VW’s comeback plan Friday at an event in a dealership in Dearborn, Michigan.
VW is still dealing with the emissions scandal, in which it used sophisticated software to activate pollution controls during government tests and turn them off while the cars were being driven on roads. The company has agreed to more than $20 billion in fines and civil settlements over the scandal.
Earlier Friday in Germany, VW said that it expects to take additional charges of about $2.9 billion in the third quarter to cover costs of buying back or retrofitting 2-liter diesel vehicles that were part of the civil settlements.
So far this year, the VW brand’s U.S. sales are up 6.4 percent while the U.S. market has shrunk by 2.7 percent, according to Autodata Corp. Woebcken attributes the increase the introduction of two new SUVs: the full-size Atlas and the compact Tiguan. The company plans a new Jetta compact car and a new midsize luxury car for the 2019 model year. For a company VW’s size, two new models per year is ambitious.
VW also announced that all of its models but the electric Golf would have six-year, 72-month bumper-to-bumper warranties, which it says is the industry’s best. The transferrable warranty applies to all models but the electric Golf, which has a longer warranty on the battery.
“This country loves comeback stories,” Woebcken said. “They also love to give people a second chance,” he said.
But problems may still lie ahead. German weekly Der Spiegel reported on Friday that it could face further scrutiny because it failed to properly inform U.S. regulators about changes to emissions control software in nearly one-half million cars with gas engines.
Citing an internal VW investigation, Der Spiegel reported that the software was changed in about one in five gas cars registered from 2009 to 2017. The report notes that the software wasn’t used to illegally alter emission levels in tests.
Both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Woebcken confirmed the inquiry, with Woebcken saying VW is cooperating with agencies involved. Asked if the software is another “defeat device” that could thwart emissions tests, Woebcken replied: “Not of my knowledge.”
The EPA said it couldn’t comment due to “ongoing investigation work” and said the seriousness and outcome is not yet known.
– Frank Jordans contributed from Berlin.
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