The news site confirmed via a VW spokesperson that the Wolfsburg-based company sold roughly 6,700 “test cars” in both the U.S. and Europe between 2006 and 2018, with the majority of those having been sold in Germany.
The cars, Handelsblatt says, were built before official series production began, and were meant to be used for testing or as display vehicles. They were not certified to be on the roads, the site writes. The story continues:
The cars, made to test and showcase new models before the launch of large-scale series production, should officially have been scrapped, but instead VW sold them as new or second-hand cars. The problem: motor transport authorities never approved these test models, only the ones produced in series.
VW is now recalling the cars despite having “no knowledge of any accidents due to the use of the test cars sold,” with a VW spokesperson telling Handelsblatt that the reason for the recall is that VW doesn’t know how different the test cars are from the approved production models. The story goes on, pointing out that VW’s poor documentation of the changes:
The VW spokesman also added that the cars could have been sold legally if the carmaker had properly documented how the test models deviated from the production cars. But this was not done at the time, so now nobody knew what was wrong with which test car, if anything. VW’s procedures have since changed and now these differences are noted.
According to German magazine Der Spiegel, VW’s audit team pointed this issue out back in the summer of 2016, but only in September of this year did VW relay the info to Germany’s Federal Motor Transport Authority. The news site also says that the audits mention about 17,000 cars potentially involved—significantly more than the 6,700 recalled. Jalopnik has reached out to VW to learn more.