OTTAWA — Volkswagen dealers in Canada have quietly resumed selling diesel cars that they had been holding in inventory since the company’s emissions-cheating scandal erupted in 2015.
That the cars — Beetles, Golfs, Jettas and Passats from the 2015 model year — had been dusted off and put back in showrooms was mainly noted by several dealers in Facebook posts.
But Clarkdale Volkswagen in Vancouver, British Columbia, featured the return of the diesel models prominently on its website. It indicated that the cars had received a software update that was the first part of a two-stage process meant to bring the company’s 2.0-liter diesel engines into compliance with emission controls. The second stage, involving engine modification, is not yet available.
The Vancouver dealer and others did not respond to requests for comment.
Higher fuel prices in Canada, largely because of taxes, had made diesel engines relatively popular in the country. Before the emissions scandal, diesels once accounted for about a quarter of the sales of some Volkswagen models in Canada, particularly the Golf.
In September 2015, in what it said was a voluntary move, Volkswagen Canada halted sales of new and used vehicles that used the emissions-cheating software and said the matter was being investigated by Environment Canada, the federal regulator. That investigation is continuing.
Automotive News Canada reported on Thursday that sales of diesel models had resumed. Environment Canada said on Friday that it was unable to comment immediately on the resumption of sales. Volkswagen Canada said it could not provide anyone to speak about the matter, while its parent company in Germany did not respond to requests for comment.
The combination of the scandal surrounding the carmaker’s diesel vehicles and the subsequent improvements to some models, particularly the Golf, means that the cars that had been kept off dealership floors are being heavily discounted. The dealer in Vancouver was offering discounts of 9,500 Canadian dollars (about $7,000) for cash sales and 7,500 Canadian dollars, plus zero percent interest rates, for customers seeking financing.
“You’re absolutely taking a risk, no question,” said Jake Fisher, the director of auto testing at Consumer Reports, about buying a Volkswagen diesel today. “The question is: How are these cars performing after the fix?”
In a letter to owners in response to the emissions scandal, Volkswagen Canada said that the initial software fix and the second stage, which involves the addition of emissions-control hardware and more software changes, “affect technical functions under some operating conditions.”
However, it added that it did “not expect any significant changes in fuel consumption or driving characteristics.”
In January, the United States Environmental Protection Agency said in a statement that testing it had conducted with the California Air Resources Board confirmed Volkswagen’s assessment that the modifications “will not affect vehicle fuel economy, reliability, or durability.” Those tests did not appear to include factors like acceleration and overall performance, however.
Mr. Fisher said that cars with the emissions-control fix would need to be tested to determine whether Volkswagen’s assessment was correct. But he said he was sure there would be differences after the repairs, and perhaps not for the better. The new equipment and software could also reduce the longevity of engines, he said.
“If they had the ability through software to make these engines comply with emissions rules, they would have done that in the first place, so obviously there will be differences,” Mr. Fisher said.
Volkswagen settled class-action lawsuits in Ontario and Quebec on Friday, involving owners nationwide, affecting about 105,000 Volkswagens and Audis with the 2.0-liter diesel engine made from 2009 to 2015; the company also said it would offer owners cash payments and other remedies, including repair or repurchase. Earlier, lawyers involved in the litigation estimated the cost of the settlement at 2.1 billion Canadian dollars.
In a statement, the company said that the settlement “is not an admission of liability by Volkswagen.”