Fraudulent emissions scandal: Seat suspends sales of diesel cars in Portugal

With car manufacturer Seat now suspending sales in Portugal of all diesel cars, the effects of Volkswagen’s fraudulent emissions scandal are reverberating on a universe of at least 117,000 national vehicles.

Siva, the Spanish firm that represents Volkswagen, Skoda and Audi here, has already admitted to having sold over 94,000 diesel cars using the cheating software – the bulk of which were Volkswagens. But Seat has since come clean with another 23,000, which it says were sold up and down the country.

According to Público this morning, Seat has pulled its remaining affected diesel cars from stands – though Siva has yet to make such an announcement.

Elsewhere in Europe, Spain, Holland and Belgium have suspended sales of all Volkswagen, Audi, Skoda and Seat diesel vehicles with the bandit EA189 engines.

Meantime, a government working group has been set up in Portugal to “monitor” developments.

Clients “will not end up bearing any costs” of the scandal, Economy minister Pires de Lima has told Lusa news agency.

With Volkswagen production lines already reported to be cutting back, and staff contracts not being renewed, the ‘good news’ for Portugal is two-fold.

First, the AutoEuropa plant in Palmela does not produce cars using EA189 engines

Its production line – involving VW’s Sharan, Sirocco and Eos models, and Seat Alhambra’s – remains on track, “producing 460 cars per day”, works coordinator António Chora has told Público.

Second is that owners who purchased cars with the rogue software in the last two years are entitled to their money back.

The head of Portugal’s vehicle arbitration centre Sara Mendes has explained that consumers have the right to see their purchase compensated if they can show that it is not up to the terms stipulated in their purchase contract – which is the case here.

Público explains there are “four legal mechanisms available”: repair, substitution (for an equal vehicle but without the detected problem), adequate reduction of price or resolution of the contract with the consequent return of the vehicle and receipt of value paid in the purchase”.

Vehicle owners affected should contact their sales outlet, not the manufacturer, and put their case in writing, Mendes added.

Whether Portugal’s 117,000 affected vehicle owners will do this remains to be seen as the scandal blows a massive hole in the credibility of the automobile sector.

Leader writers have suggested it is not so much a scandal as a syndrome. “Expect it to get worse,” writes Henry Mintzberg in Canada’s Globe and Mail, claiming “legal corruption” is an accelerating trend in a “world where predatory capitalism is triumphing”.

“Okay, so you will not buy a Volkswagen,” he opens a pithy business commentary. “A Chevrolet instead? Watch out for the ignition. Or how about a Toyota? Just duck as the airbag comes your way.”

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