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Volkswagen warns new emissions test may slow its sales

The German automaker is working to certify models for the new WLTP test.

Volkswagen Tiguan assembly
Volkswagen's Wolfsburg plant in Germany.

European carmakers must now certify that their vehicles meet stricter WLTP -- that's Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure -- emissions rules, and that's causing a problem for Volkswagen. According to Reuters, Volkswagen expects delays in the sale and production of new cars because it lost so many technical experts after engineers left the company in the wake of the Dieselgate scandal.

"Engine development expertise has been lost," Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess told Reuters. "That impacts capacity utilization at our plants, so there will be closure days at our sites during this period."

In a speech to investors (PDF), Diess described the switch to the WLTP as "the biggest volume and earnings risk," in part because the Volkswagen Group has more than 260 engine-transmission combinations to test, adding, "This will be a titanic task for the second half of the year." The WLTP rules go into effect on September 1.

But it's not simply a case of the test being tougher and requiring more time. Diess's speech acknowledged, "We lost board members and thus specialist expertise -- particularly in Technical Development -- as a result of the diesel crisis."

The WLTP is stricter than previous European emissions test cycles, and closely looks at the specific performance of individual models based on more data than before. Among the new checks, Diess told Reuters that regulators check "what kind of tires were fitted and whether the air conditioning is switched on."