S Korea to probe Volkswagen, Audi diesel emissions

22 Sep 2015


The scandal involving Volkswagen AG, which had admitted to cheating in diesel vehicle emissions tests in the US, spread east today with South Korea saying it would investigate three of the company's diesel models.

Volkswagen shares plummeted 19 per cent yesterday after the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said on Friday that Volkswagen deceived regulators measuring toxic emissions and could face penalties of up to $18 billion.

According to media reports, the US Department of Justice had launched a criminal probe into the allegations, which covered a number of Volkswagen and Audi-branded diesel models including the Audi A3, VW Jetta, Beetle, Golf and Passat.

According Park Pan-kyu, a deputy director at South Korea's environment ministry who spoke to Reuters, the South Korean probe would cover 4,000 to 5,000 Jetta, Golf and Audi A3 vehicles produced in 2014 and 2015.

He added, the ministry would consider a recall of the vehicles following the investigation.

"If South Korean authorities find problems in the VW diesel cars, the probe could be expanded to all German diesel cars," he said.

Volkswagen has been accused of concealing is emission figures for years and it was not the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), but was a small, independent research institution, that called the company's bluff.

The International Council on Clean Transportation showed that Volkswagen's vehicles had emissions issues, which the company blamed on technical issues and ''unexpected in-use conditions.''

It went on to recall 500,000 thousand vehicles in December 2014, to address the problem. However follow-up testing by California and the EPA revealed not only persistent higher emissions, but the fact that these were also not being picked up by the vehicles' diagnostic systems.

Volkswagen came around only when the two agencies threatened to withhold environmental certification from VW's 2016 products. From 2009, Volkswagen had installed software that would fully switch on a vehicle's emissions controls only while undergoing tests, but in normal driving conditions, the company's diesel vehicles would spew 10 to 40 times the amount of nitrogen oxides they emitted during the tests.

Nitrogen oxides react with other compounds to form small particles that, and according to the EPA, ''penetrate deeply into sensitive parts of the lungs and can cause or worsen respiratory disease, such as emphysema and bronchitis, and can aggravate existing heart disease, leading to increased hospital admissions and premature death.''

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