Volkswagen’s stunning admission it had rigged some of its diesel cars to pass emissions tests may haunt Oregon drivers as a fix rolls out.

For now, though, don’t expect regulators to come knocking at the garage door. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality said Friday the cars remain legal to drive and even resell, and earlier vehicle emissions tests remain valid.

Volkswagen and subsidiary Audi said this week that 11 million of its diesel passenger cars — including Jettas, Beetles, Golfs, Passats and Audi A3s from the model years 2009 to 2015 — came with software that helped defeat a federal air-quality test. It detected when a car was being tested and turned on a device that helps keep nitrogen oxides, pollutants tied to asthma and other respiratory illnesses, from escaping into the air.

Those cars represented 666, or one-tenth of one percent, of the 529,957 cars tested in the last year. Because air-quality testing is only required in the Portland and Medford areas, there may be more across the state.

The cheat didn’t defeat Oregon’s air-quality tests, which directly measure tailpipe emissions. Instead, the state uses onboard diagnostics to determine when pollution-mitigating components are malfunctioning. In other words, the test assumes the cars were manufactured to meet federal emissions standards.

But once Volkswagen rolls out a recall, which the Department of Environmental Quality could take as long as a year, owners of affected cars will receive a sticker certifying they’ve been reprogrammed to meet emissions standards. They’ll need the sticker to pass future air-quality inspections.

That’s not the worst of it. The software fix is expected to turn on the nitrogen oxides-reducing component full time. The cars’ fuel economy and performance will likely suffer as a result, so the fix will hit owners in the wallet.

That’s what’s prompted lawsuits and investigations from consumer protection agencies.

Twenty-seven states, including Oregon, are planning a joint investigation in connection with the scandal. An Oregon Department of Justice spokeswoman said Thursday the state is particularly interested in the automaker’s advertising.

And owners of affected cars have already started filing lawsuits, including at least one in Oregon.

— Elliot Njus

[email protected]
503-294-5034
@enjus

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