More imported cars face sales ban

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More imported cars face sales ban

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Audi Volkswagen cars are lined up at the predelivery inspection center in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi, in August. Korea banned sale of 80 models of cars produced by the Volkswagen group including its Golf, Polo, Beetle and Bentley brand because emissions and noise tests were falsified. Nissan, BMW and Porsche now face bans. [KIM HYUN-DONG]

Nissan, BMW and Porsche falsified certification documents on 10 imported models, the government said Tuesday, and the automakers could be banned from sales in Korea as early as next month.

The discovery further taints the image of imported brands in the local market after an emissions scandal in which Volkswagen was found to have manipulated its emissions and fuel efficiency paperwork swept the country. The Ministry of Environment widened its investigation after the VW scandal. On Tuesday, the ministry said that two cars from Nissan, one car from BMW and seven from Porsche manipulated documents in a similar manner to Volkswagen.

The cars may be subject to decertification and a sales ban, once illegal fabrication is confirmed in a hearing. The automakers could also face fines that reach a combined 6.49 billion won ($5.6 million), the ministry said.

The ministry had been inspecting 15 import brands since August following the Volkswagen scandal.

Nissan submitted paperwork that indicated that its Infiniti Q50 was certified in Japan but the ministry said the automaker didn’t test in Japan. BMW was caught using test data of its X6 M model on its X5 M certification document.

BMW said in a statement that its “X5 M and X6 M models share emissions defeat device and engines. We will explain more of why X6 M’s data was included in X5 M’s certification document in the hearing.”

Porsche changed the emissions test data of three models including the Macan S Diesel and falsified documents to appear they were from a certified institution, when the tests were conducted in institutions uncertified by the nation’s Environment Ministry, on four other models including Cayman GTS.

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Nissan’s Qashqai sport-utility vehicle, which already has been banned in the nation due to emissions-rigging in May, was included in the list.

While Porsche Korea self-reported problematic documents to the Environment Ministry during the inspections, Nissan will have to explain its documentation before mid-December, when decertification is scheduled.

“We are also pressing criminal charges against automakers if they do not come up with a sufficient explanation for their actions,” the Environment Ministry said in a statement.

Fines levied on the automakers are based on revenue they received on affected models in Korea. Nissan is subject to 3.2 billion won in fines, BMW faces fines of 430 million won and Porsche 2.86 billion won. The sales ban targets six models, as four Porsche models have been discontinued.

“Renowned import brands mostly bring their own certified test papers and we approved of those documents because fabrication was never on our minds,” said Park Yong-hee, a researcher at the National Institute of Environmental Research. “We have no option but to take a closer look at documents if import brands switch test results or manipulate them to make the certification process faster.”

Meanwhile, the ministry will demand Volkswagen, which had been ordered by the ministry to recall emissions-rigged cars, supplement its recall plan submitted last month. The Environment Ministry and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport are testing the fuel efficiency of Volkswagens after the recall and approval of the plan will be decided next month.

Volkswagen has been embroiled in an emissions rigging scandal since September 2015, then faced another scandal in August of this year as it falsified emissions and noise test results on its popular models including the Golf, Polo and Beetle. The scandal led to a sales ban on 80 car models by VW and Audi, both brands under Volkswagen Group.

The scandals knocked Audi and Volkswagen from the list of the top 10 import brands in October, according to data from the Korea Automobile Importers and Distributors Association. Audi sold 475 cars and Volkswagen sold only 30 cars in Korea last month.


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

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