Canadian Underwriter

Ontario launches investigation into Volkswagen Canada and Audi Canada following emissions scandal

October 8, 2015   by Canadian Underwriter

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Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change announced on Wednesday that it is investigating any possible violations under the Environmental Protection Act in relation to the action by Volkswagen Canada and Audi Canada to sell cars to its dealers and consumers with software to bypass the vehicle’s emissions control.

FILE - In this Sept. 29, 2015, file photo, people leave Volkswagen car factory in Wolfsburg, Germany. More than a decade ago, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency helped develop a technology that ultimately allowed an independent laboratory to catch Volkswagen’s elaborate cheating on car emissions tests. But EPA did not apply that technology on its own tests of diesel passenger cars and instead focused on trucks, thus missing its best chance to foil the German carmaker’s deception as early as 2007. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber, File)

The defeat software turned off specific emissions control systems resulting in nitrogen oxide emissions exceeding standards by up to 40 times, the ministry noted in a statement.

Ontario’s Environmental Protection Act prohibits the sale of vehicles that do not meet emissions standards. The province is also requiring the company to provide a plan detailing the actions they will take to fix impacted vehicles in Ontario.

“When Volkswagen Canada and Audi Canada have identified an Ontario-specific solution to the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, they will be expected to take action to ensure impacted vehicles are in compliance while minimizing any inconvenience and costs to owners,” the statement said.

Related: Volkswagen CEO: recall of vehicles affected by emissions scandal should begin in January

“The actions taken by Volkswagen Canada and Audi Canada are unacceptable,” added Glen R. Murray, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, in the statement. “We want to make sure the right steps are taken to remedy this situation in a way that is easy for Ontarians, and ensures the province’s emissions standards are met.”

There are approximately 11 million cars in Ontario – about 35,000 are impacted Volkswagen and Audi vehicles. Affected cars include certain Volkswagen and Audi models from 2009-2015.

Late last month, Environment Canada also announced that it had opened an investigation into the company’s used of defeat devices to circumvent emissions regulations.

Volkswagen plans to launch a recall of vehicles with the software in January.

Related: Volkswagen Canada halts some sales after CEO apologizes for emissions scandal

Speaking to more than 20,000 employees at a plant in Wolfsburg, Germany on Tuesday, Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft CEO Matthias Müller said that “we can and we will overcome this crisis, because Volkswagen is a group with a strong foundation. Apart from the enormous financial damage which it is still not possible to quantify as of today, this crisis is first and foremost a crisis of confidence,” he said in a statement.

Over the coming days, affected customers will be informed that the emissions characteristics of their vehicles will be upgraded, with the company presenting the technical solutions to the responsible authorities, particularly the German Federal Motor Transport Authority – for approval. “In many instances a software update will be sufficient,” Müller said. “Some vehicles, however, will also require hardware modifications. We will keep our customers constantly informed about the measures and arrange workshop appointments.”

The most important task, he said, would be to “win back the trust we have lost – with our customers, partners, investors and the general public. Only when everything has been put on the table, when no single stone has been left unturned, only then will people begin to trust us again.”