Seat admits manufacturing 700,000 cars with VW’s rigged engines

Spanish brand of Volkswagen group is studying the markets where vehicles were sold Seat plant in Barcelona that makes the Audi Q3 also affected by emissions-test scandal

Dani Cordero
Audi vehicles made in Barcelona may also be affected by the VW scandal.
Audi vehicles made in Barcelona may also be affected by the VW scandal.YVES HERMAN (REUTERS)

Seat, the Spanish carmaker that forms part of Volkswagen, admitted on Tuesday that it put together 700,000 vehicles with the EA 189 diesel engine, the power unit that is at the center of an unprecedented scandal that has engulfed the troubled German group in recent weeks.

The Spanish firm released a statement explaining that six of its models manufactured between 2009 and 2014 have the engine in question, which contains software that can reduce emissions during a testing situation. When the car is running normally on the road, emissions well exceed those stated by the manufacturer.

Unofficial sources from Seat already confirmed to EL PAÍS last week that the number of cars affected was above the half-a-million mark.

Besides the Audi Q3, other affected models produced at the Martorell plant include the Seat León, Ibiza, Alhambra, Exeo and Altea

The announcement is the last to arrive from the brands that make up the Volkswagen Group, and account for more than 6% of the 11 million of the group’s vehicles that are affected. Volkswagen has admitted that five million of its units contain the manipulated engine, while Audi is responsible for 2.1 million, and Skoda another 1.2 million. Seat, meanwhile, which is the smallest part of the group, will be the least affected in terms of total volume, but not in proportion.

More information
Seat may have installed over 500,000 altered diesel engines into its cars
Volkswagen bails out firm that sells Seat vehicles
Ibiza: the car that saved Seat

The crisis of the rigged engines, which were manufactured by Volkswagen and sold to its affiliates, affects all Seat models sold between 2009 and 2015, with some exceptions. Only the Mii micro-car has escaped, given it is sold exclusively with gasoline engines.

The best-selling León and Ibiza models will be most affected, as will the Alhambra and the now-discontinued Exeo and Altea. The engine types affected are the TDI1.5 and TDI2.0, although some media sources have claimed that smaller engines could also be involved.

A Seat spokesperson has explained that the company will soon be offering chassis numbers of the affected cars on its webpage. From that point, owners of the vehicles in question will be able to take their cars for a service, the cost of which will be covered by the company. It is not yet known whether these engine check-ups will be paid for by Seat or by the Volkswagen Group.

Sales pulled

Almost two weeks after the emissions-test scandal first broke in the United States, Audi, Seat, Skoda, Volkswagen and Volkswagen Commercial vehicles have announced they will be pulling 3,320 vehicles that may be affected by the rigged software from sale in Spain.

A spokesperson from the group explained on Tuesday that sales of the stock of cars and vans had been temporarily suspended until Volkswagen comes up with a technical solution to resolve the issue.

The vehicles in question are models due to be handed over to customers and produced up until the end of May, the date from which car manufacturers have been obliged to make cars under the Euro 6 emissions rules. The manipulation of the vehicles’ software systems is related to cars made under the Euro 5 rules.

The suspension is aimed at avoiding suspicions among customers that they have bought a fraudulent car. The same spokesperson also announced that all of the cars that are potentially affected are perfectly safe to drive.

Audi plant in Barcelona

The Seat plant in Martorell (Barcelona) is also affected by Monday’s announcement by Audi that 2.1 million of its cars have the rigged engine-management software.

The Martorell plant is the main European production center for the Audi Q3, a diesel model that’s involved in the case.

Since production began in 2011, this facility has assembled 343,281 units of the compact luxury crossover. There is another plant in China that produces the model for the Asian market.

The Q3 has been a source of pride for Seat, which felt that the choice of Martorell proved that the plant offers superior quality guarantees. The project also meant more jobs and work, although it came at a price: VW demanded greater worker flexibility and a temporary wage freeze.

Besides the Audi Q3, other affected models produced at the Martorell plant include the Seat León, Ibiza, Alhambra, Exeo and Altea.

The consumer association Facua-Consumidores en Acción has announced legal action against VW brands sold in Spain. The group has already brought together 5,145 owners of Volkswagen, Audi, Skoda and Seat vehicles running on diesel engines, and is assessing them in their legal claims.

Facua-Consumidores en Acción is also planning administrative complaints that will seek “sanctions proportional to the seriousness of the fraud.”

The far-right labor union Manos Limpias (Clean Hands) is also bringing action against the chairmen of Volkswagen Audi España, Francisco Pérez Botello; Volkswagen Navarra, Emilio Sáenz, and Seat, Jürgen Stackmann, on charges of fraud, environmental crimes, document forgery and tax fraud.

English version by Susana Urra and Simon Hunter.

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