Volkswagen has admitted to selling at least 6700 pre-production cars to the public when they should in fact have been crushed.
Between 2006 and 2018 Volkswagen sold the cars, which are largely believed to be late-stage pre-production press demonstrators built to “test and showcase” the cars at international launch events, across Europe and the US. However, most were sold to customers in Germany – where the vast majority of its European press event cars are registered.
Some 4000 are said to have been sold there. None of the 6700 that have been admitted to so far are legally authorised for road use beyond the testing and media programmes. Volkswagen has now begun to recall those of the 6700 that remain on the road although it’s not yet clear what action might be taken.
German newspaper Handelsblatt originally reported the story, but Der Spiegel has also run with it and suggested that the true number of rogue pre-production cars in the wild is actually more like 17,000.
Handelsblatt also says that current VW Group CEO Herbert Diess knew about the issue in 2016 but failed to stop it until this year. No accidents or specific failures are yet known about on any of these cars, but some could be significantly different under the skin when compared with full production cars.
The legal hiccup is that these were cars whose differences from production spec weren’t noted properly. If there are unknown differences the car can’t piggy-back on the same type-approvals given to the proper thing. Volkswagen has now begun recording in detail the differences on each similar car to leave its factory, which, weirdly, gives it the legal right to sell them regardless.