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Volkswagen Australia chief slams Dieselgate "public confusion"

VW Australia's managing director suggests that there are "polar differences" between the situation here and overseas.

VW Australia's managing director claims emissions issues facing Australian customers are not the same as the rest of the world

The managing director of Volkswagen Australia, Michael Bartsch, has sought to pacify almost 100,000 owners of VW Group cars affected by the worldwide diesel emissions scandal in Australia, suggesting that there are "polar differences" between the situation here and overseas.

Mr Bartsch, who joined VW Australia just as the scandal broke across the world last September, broke his head office-imposed silence on the issue to suggest that regulations around nitrous oxide emissions are far more onerous than those in the United States, and that Australian rules are based around the reduction of carbon monoxide and fuel consumption.

"It is regrettable that interested parties ignore the polar differences between emission regulations in the United States and Australia. This only adds to public confusion," he said, in response to recent criticism from Australian Automobile Association chief executive Michael Bradley, who suggested that the company should follow its US counterpart's example and offer its Australian customers a 'goodwill payment'.

Affected Volkswagen customers in the US have been granted a number of concessions since September, including a pre-paid Visa card and dealership gift cards, late in 2015.

Volkswagen believes that the best outcome for its (Australian) customers is the technical solution.

The company announced this week that it would award those same customers with an average of US$5000 (A$6000) each, and also agreed to buy back "affected" cars in a deal widely regarded as the largest auto industry scandal settlement ever.

There are almost 500,000 vehicles caught up in the issue in the US, and costs are expected to top US$15 billion (A$17 billion).

"Volkswagen believes that the best outcome for its (Australian) customers is the technical solution," said Mr Bartsch. "This will update the software in vehicles which are the subject of the class action at no charge to customers."

He also pointed out that more than 8.5 million customers in Europe were not eligible for compensation, either.

"The relevant facts and complex legal issues that have played a role in coming to these agreements in the United States are materially different from those in Europe and Australia," Mr Bartsch said.

"Volkswagen is committed to resolving the diesel matter for all affected customers around the world quickly and efficiently."

The scandal broke in September last year, after a US university discovered that certain diesel-powered VWs were emitting far higher amounts of nitrous oxide and other pollutants than were permitted during road tests.

The company subsequently admitted that a software 'cheat code' in the engine's management system allowed for a lower emissions reading while the vehicle was strapped to a rolling road dynamometer, before reverting to a more powerful but more polluting engine tune once in motion.

Audi, Porsche, SEAT, Skoda and Volkswagen-branded vehicles were all caught up in the scandal, which mainly affected the EA189 four-cylinder diesel engine.

A software retune program for 8000 Australia-delivered VW Amarok utes is currently underway, with recall programs for other vehicles expected to be announced soon.

Is Volkswagen Australia doing the right thing by its affected customers? Tell us what you think in the comments below.