"Volkswagen made a decision to cheat on emissions tests and then tried to cover it up," said CARB chair Mary D. Nichols. "They continued and compounded the lie, and when they were caught, they tried to deny it. The result is thousands of tons of nitrogen oxide that have harmed the health of Californians. They need to make it right."
The blunt words were the latest in a series of harsh exchanges between the company and regulators. During the North American International Auto Show on Monday, Volkswagen CEO Matthias Muller said the company had not lied about the installation of software that detected when cars were undergoing emissions testing and then changed their performance metrics. Muller said the controversy over the so-called defeat devices began with a "misunderstanding" of federal laws.
California has outlined 13 specific violations, and Air Resources Board officials say their investigation is ongoing. Officials said Tuesday the plan Volkswagen had submitted lacks enough information for them to make a technical evaluation, and did not adequately address vehicle performance, emissions, and safety issues.
The rejection applied only to VW's diesel 2.0-liter vehicles, not the 3.0-liter vehicles. Volkswagen is scheduled to submit a repair plan for the 3.0-liter vehicles by February 2. Combined, the defeat devices affect nearly 600,000 cars in the United States. Tuesday's rejection came from the Air Resources Board, but officials with the EPA, who are conducting a concurrent investigation, said they agreed with the decision.
"EPA agrees with CARB that Volkswagen has not submitted an approvable recall plan to bring the vehicles into compliance and reduce pollution," an agency spokesperson said. "EPA has conveyed this to the company previously."
The rejection did not surprise industry analysts.
"Volkswagen has been working on an additional potential fix involving the catalytic converter," said Rebecca Lindland, senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book. "This details have not been worked out. ... This is not a major setback. If they present them with another plan and that's rejected, we can start to see some real concern. However, it's unfortunate because it continues to delay getting consumers the answers and solutions they want, need and deserve."