Ministry mulls harsh measures on Volkswagen

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Ministry mulls harsh measures on Volkswagen

The Ministry of Environment is reviewing plans to impose administrative punishments on 32 models from Audi Volkswagen Korea for phony noise and emissions test results.

The ministry confirmed Monday that the Seoul Central District Prosecutor’s Office, responsible for investigating Volkswagen’s emissions-rigging scandal, asked the ministry last Wednesday to take administrative measures on the automaker for fabricating vehicle test documents to pass national inspections.

Cars on the prosecution’s list includes the majority of vehicles spotted on the Korean roads with Audi or Volkswagen logos: Volkswagen’s Golf, Scirocco, Jetta, Passat, Tiguan and Audi’s A1, A3, A4, A5, A6, A8, Q3, Q5, TT Roadster, TT Coupe - all in diverse engine displacement ranges and in 79 “trims,” or variants. Bentley’s Continental GTC is also part of the list.

“We have not decided on whether to take executive administrative actions yet, but the prosecution reported its findings to us and we are reviewing the facts to see what measures should be taken for those models,” an official from the ministry said.

Possible administrative actions include cancelling certifications for problematic cars, banning further sales, executing recalls on cars already sold and imposing fines.

The 32 models reported to the ministry as having fabricated data do not overlap with the 15 models that Audi Volkswagen had confirmed for their so-called defeat device last November, according to a ministry source.

If test fabrication is confirmed for the named models by the Environment ministry and administrative measures are imposed, VW could be driven out of Korea, according to industry sources. Those 79 trims account for roughly half of its sales in Korea since 2007.

Over the last 10 years, the automaker has sold 250,000 cars in Korea. The number of cars subject to recall is expected to be between 100,000 to 150,000.

The ministry has begun cross checking the findings from the prosecution and the original certification documents submitted to the government for each suspected models. That process is expected to take about a week.

The Korean unit of Audi Volkswagen said it has not yet been notified officially by the Environment Ministry of any administrative measures to be imposed on the automaker.

“We know the prosecution has requested penalties from the ministry but we don’t know the details of the report and what measures are to be taken,” a spokesperson from Volkswagen said.

While complaints from car dealers owning Audi and Volkswagen cars have flooded into the automaker, it maintained on Monday that it is hard to come up with a response until the government announces a clear position as to what penalties will be imposed.

BY KIM JEE-HEE [kim.jeehee@joongang.co.kr]

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