Volkswagen Canada kills diesel for 2017 model year

Company to start making electric vehicles in North America in 2021

Volkswagen Canada will not sell diesel vehicles for the 2017 model year, a company spokesman said late Wednesday.

The company confirmed the decision is a direct result of the company’s admission to equipping diesel vehicles with software designed to cheat emissions tests.

Volkswagen sold about 100,000 affected vehicles in Canada from model years 2009-2016. A full list is on its website.

When it comes to diesel options beyond 2017, Volkswagen Canada “will examine each car line individually," Thomas Tetzlaff of Volkswagen told Automotive News Canada in an email.

The announcement comes a day after Volkswagen’s global brand chief said the automaker will no longer offer diesels in the United States, according to Reuters news agency.

In October, Volkswagen reached a US $14.7 billion settlement with 475,000 U.S. owners of diesel vehicles and federal and California regulators. Canadian owners and dealers are still waiting for a decision and settlement details.

As part of that U.S. decision, Volkswagen has been ordered to provide US $2 billion over 10 years for programs to promote construction of electric-vehicle charging infrastructure, development of zero-emission ride-sharing fleets and other efforts to boost sales of cars that do not burn petroleum.

Electric a new focus

At the beginning of the 2016 Los Angeles Auto Show in November, Volkswagen Group of America CEO Hinrich Woebcken said he did not believe diesels would ever "come back in the same magnitude as we've seen it up to now" in the U.S. market.

"Emissions standards in following years are getting tougher and tougher," he said.

Bloomberg news agency reported Nov. 22 that Volkswagen would shift to making electric vehicles in North America in 2021.

U.S. investigators discovered in 2015 that Volkswagen had rigged millions of diesel vehicles with software that identified when the vehicles were being tested and then altered emissions performance so they would pass. Once on the road, the cars released toxins such as nitrogen oxide at levels more than 40 times higher than current U.S. regulations allow.

After the American findings, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and California Air Resources Board (CARB) reacted by tightening their testing regimes for diesels.

Canada waits

Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), the country's environment regulator, accepts EPA certification for approving cars for sale in Canada. As such, the tougher tests in the United States led to increased stringency and on-sale delays in Canada for new diesel models from other automakers, such as Mercedes-Benz.

ECCC followed with its own investigation in Volkswagen Canada under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act for importing vehicles with software intended to defeat emissions testing. ECCC spokeswoman Melanie Quesnel told Automotive News Canada in a statement in early October that the agency is “actively investigating” certain Volkswagen, Audi, and Porsche diesel vehicles equipped with prohibited defeat devices. If it uncovers sufficient evidence of violations, the agency “may recommend to the Public Prosecution Service of Canada that charges be laid,” she said.

Any environmental penalties levied by the federal government would be in addition to anything levied in a class-action suit currently under way in Superior courts in Ontario and Quebec.

The next court dates for the Canadian class-action suit are Dec. 19-20.

On its consumer website, Volkswagen Canada said that upon approval of the U.S. repairs, Canadian customers will also be offered repairs “in full co-operation with Environment Canada.

Automotive News Canada staff and Reuters contributed to this report.

You can reach Greg Layson at glayson@autonews.com

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