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OOPS: Volkswagen to Recall 850,000 Vehicles From 2001-2003

NEW YORK February 4, 2003; Volkswagen AG will recall nearly 850,000 vehicles world-wide, including about 530,000 in the U.S., to replace the ignition coils in all 2001, 2002 and early 2003 models equipped with certain engines because they have experienced a higher-than-normal failure rate.

The engines in question are 1.8-liter, the Passat W8, all Volkswagens with 2.8-liter VR6s and the Audi three-liter V6. Audi is Volkswagen's luxury brand.

In a statement Tuesday, Volkswagen said the ignition coils, which provide electricity to the engine's spark plugs, in the above engines have a higher- than-normal failure rate and result in the check-engine light/malfunction- indicator lamp blinking. As such, the vehicle's performance may become rough and/or the engine will lose some power. The engine and its electronic controls are designed to keep the vehicle running, the auto maker said, but some deterioration in performance can be expected.

Volkswagen will initially focus on vehicles whose ignition coils have failed, and will move on to those vehicles that haven't yet had a failure "in the coming months." The company added suppliers are working around the clock to make new coils, and a U.S. spokesman said Volkswagen expects to have enough of a supply by early March to replace all coils.

The spokesman added the auto maker doesn't immediately have an estimate on how much the recall will cost. But while analysts agree recall costs generally aren't significant since most auto makers make provisions for them, the damage to a brand's images are more serious and long-lasting.

In Germany, a spokesman there said the recall is unrelated to a story in Sunday's New York Times, which highlighted the coil failures and Volkswagen's former policy of only replacing failed coils.

"It's true that in the past, our policy was to replace just those ignition coils that were defective, but we decided last week to change this," said spokesman Hans-Gerd Bode.