VW recalls 800,000 vehicles over pedal problem; U.S. judge sets April 21 emissions deadline


Embattled German automaker Volkswagen said Thursday it was recalling around 800,000 luxury sport utility vehicles worldwide over a potential footpedal problem.

The group said the recall affected 391,000 vehicles of its Toureg model and more than 400,000 of its Porsche Cayenne model built between 2011 and this year.

“The reason is possible loosening of a retaining ring on the bearing block of the pedal system,” the company said in a statement.

“The ring will be checked for proper installation at the service shop.”

The company said the problem had been found in internal inspections and had been corrected in vehicles currently in production.

VW said the repair was free-of-charge and could be carried out in less than half an hour.

Porsche, a VW subsidiary, said in a separate statement that the safety recall was for a “precautionary inspection” because a “clip may have become dislodged from the pedal bracket” in the affected Cayenne models.

“This is a purely precautionary measure, as there have been no reports of accidents or injuries as a result of this concern,” it said.

The announcement comes two days after VW said it was recalling 177,000 of its new Passat cars in Europe owing to a potential electrical fault.

And in February Volkswagen said it had to recall 680,000 cars in the United States due to possible faulty airbags supplied by Japanese maker Takata.

Other automakers had to take similar action.

VW is currently engulfed in a scandal of global proportions after it was forced to admit it had installed emissions-cheating software in around 11 million diesel engines.

Shares in the firm gave up 2.0 percent in Frankfurt trading Thursday.

A U.S. judge on Thursday meanwhile gave Volkswagen until April 21 to come up with a plan to fix some 600,000 cars spewing illegal levels of pollutants due to emissions-cheating software.

“This issue of what is to be done with these cars must be done by that date,” U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer told attorneys of the German automaker during a status hearing.

If a concrete plan for getting the cars fixed or off the roads was not submitted by the deadline, “the court would seriously consider whether to hold a bench trial this summer so that the polluting cars can be addressed forthwith,” Breyer said.

VW, which until recently had ambitions to become the world’s biggest carmaker, is battling to resolve its deepest-ever crisis sparked by revelations that it installed emissions-cheating software into 11 million diesel engines worldwide.

The software, known as a “defeat device,” limits the output of toxic nitrogen oxides to U.S. legal limits during emissions test by regulators.

But when the vehicles are in actual use, the software allows them to spew poisonous gases at up to 40 times the permitted levels, giving the vehicle better acceleration and fuel economy.

Defeat devices are prohibited in the United States, where the VW scam was originally exposed, as well as in other countries.

On top of still unquantifiable regulatory fines in a range of countries, VW is facing a slew of legal suits, notably in the United States and Germany, from angry car owners, as well as from shareholders seeking damages for the massive loss in the value of their shares since September.

Cases in the United States have been consolidated under Judge Breyer, who said attorneys representing all involved have been working relentlessly for the past month on a way to “get the cars, in their current condition, off the road.”

However, he said, engineering technicalities and “other important issues” had yet to be resolved.

The solution could be a buy-back plan or a fix to the emissions system.

But in any case a specific and detailed plan including timing, cars involved, and payments to consumers should be finalized by the April 21 deadline to avoid trial, according to the judge.

Breyer told attorneys not to reveal anything about the status talks, contending that confidentiality was critical to success.

“We are working around the clock,” plaintiffs’ attorney Elizabeth Cabraser told AFP as she left the courtroom.

“We will sleep when they are fixed.”

In a statement Volkswagen said it is “committed to resolving the US regulatory investigation into the diesel emissions matter as quickly as possible and to implementing a solution for affected vehicles.”

“We continue to make progress and are cooperating fully with the efforts undertaken by Judge Breyer … to bring about a prompt and fair resolution of the US civil litigation.”