Volkswagen said Tuesday that it would revamp the technology it uses for controlling diesel exhaust in future models as it struggles to overcome an emissions cheating scandal that has battered its reputation and threatened its financial stability.
The company said it would switch to what it called a selective catalytic reduction system to decrease emissions on its diesel engines in Europe and North America, where the scandal erupted last month. The change, which involves adding a tank of a urea-based fluid to clean exhaust, is not part of its plan to fix cars already in circulation, said Peter Thul, a spokesman for Volkswagen.
The approach is conceptually similar to an emissions control system that Volkswagen considered until 2007, when it adopted the system now at the center of its scandal. The alternative technology was rejected by the company at the time as too costly.
Volkswagen, Europe’s leading automaker, was forced to admit that 11 million of its diesel cars worldwide were equipped with software that allowed it to cheat on tests of noxious gas emissions. The company now faces a raft of investigations in the United States, Europe and China.
“Diesel vehicles will only be equipped with exhaust emissions systems that use the best environmental technology,” Herbert Diess, chairman of the company’s car brand, based in Wolfsburg, Germany, said in a statement. The change will take place “as soon as possible,” according to the statement.
Reflecting the scandal’s mounting financial toll, Volkswagen also said Tuesday that it would cut investments at its leading brand by 1 billion euros, about $1.1 billion. That will limit the company’s ability to innovate at a time when carmakers are trying to keep ahead of new technology.
It also appears that Volkswagen will move away from diesel as its preferred clean technology. Volkswagen said it is pushing ahead with the development of electric and plug-in hybrid cars based on components that can be used in different models.
Exemplifying this shift will be a transformation of the next generation of the company’s Phaeton limousine into an all-electric model, expected to reach showrooms in 2019 or 2020.
Last week, Volkswagen submitted a detailed proposal to authorities in Berlin for how it planned to remove from its vehicles in Germany the software used to cheat emissions tests.
In testimony before Congress last week and the British Parliament on Monday, Volkswagen officials indicated that fixes would vary from one country to another, given varying emissions standards.