Seoul summons VW over 'cheating' emissions tests

SEOUL, South Korea – South Korean officials summoned Volkswagen representatives to discuss emissions tests after the German auto giant was accused of cheating on US air pollution standards, the Environment Ministry said Tuesday, September 22.

"We've called in Volkswagen representatives and engineers to the ministry for a meeting on Wednesday afternoon," Deputy Director Park Pan-Kyu of the ministry told the Agence France-Presse.

"We will start conducting tests no later than next month and announce test results by the end of November," he said.

Park said it was too early to say what kind of punitive measures the government could take against the firm until the test results become available.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said Volkswagen had been fitting diesel vehicles in the US with software that turns on full pollution controls only when the car is undergoing official emissions testing.

As a result, the cars emit greater-than-allowed quantities of pollution linked to smog and various health problems.

Of the five models equipped with test-cheating software in the United States, four have been imported to South Korea – the Golf, Audi A3, Jetta and Beetle.

About 59,000 of those models are on the road in South Korea now, Park said.

VW chief executive Martin Winterkorn issued an apology and said the group had ordered an external investigation into the matter, adding that it took the EPA findings "very seriously."

The alleged violations affect nearly half a million vehicles and could result in fines totalling as much as $18 billion.

"The bigger concern is how it impacts their European reputation, which is much more important market for them, particularly in diesel," Janet Lewis, Hong Kong-based analyst at Macquarie Group Ltd, told Bloomberg.

"To the extent that they can’t grow their US business in their quest to be the No. 1 automaker by 2018, they therefore become more reliant on the China market."

Volkswagen sells about 40% of its vehicles in the Asia Pacific region, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. 

Deliveries of Volkswagen in China fell 5.8 percent in the eight months through August. 

Industry wide passenger-vehicle sales in the country climbed 6.3% during the same period, according to the China Passenger Car Association. –