Volkswagen's New Zealand division has quarantined 36 new vehicles with emissions-cheating diesel engines, but acknowledges there are likely to be hundreds more on our roads.
General manager Tom Ruddenklau says the company has halted the sale of 21 Tiguan SUVs and 15 Caddy vans, and is confident they are the only new VW vehicles in this country to have been caught up in the global scandal engulfing the German car-maker.
"Just to be on the safe side, we've isolated those from being sold until we've got a remedy - it's just something that's the responsible thing to do," he said this afternoon.
But he disclosed that there are likely to be hundreds of VW diesels of both those models and some others sold over several years in New Zealand fitted with the same four-cylinder EA 189 engine, although he was unable to identify those at this stage.
Smaller numbers of Audi and Skoda vehicles with the same engines were also likely to be affected.
Mr Ruddenklau said he hoped to have a definitive list from Germany by Monday night or Tuesday morning of the other models, to be able to notify owners and offer them a fix when one became available.
The company also intended setting up a website during the week on which owners could enter their vehicle chassis numbers, rather than wait for the company to reach them.
"Because what we are finding is customers with petrol engines for example are calling us and asking is their vehicle involved in this - and we are going: No, it's only diesel."
Neither were VW Tourags with their V6 diesel engines affected.
When the scandal first blew up, Mr Ruddenklau said New Zealand was not directly affected, as VWs on our roads were imported from the European Union market "and those cars are not involved in this emission-associated recall programme..."
His comment followed the United States Environmental Protection Agency's revelation on September 21 that it had found "defeat device" software on diesel cars which could suppress nitrogen oxide emission levels during tests, only for those to soar by up to 40 times the permitted level in everyday use.
Mr Ruddenklau told the Herald today he initially thought the problem was confined to the US market "but then the next day it transpired it was probably a little bit bigger than that."
He noted that New Zealand did not require emissions tests for nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, and did not have a standard for those.
"But emissions are emissions, and even if we don't test for them here, they are important and we can't be irresponsible or complacent over it." he said.
"At the centre of this is a bit of a trust issue - there's been some dishonest behaviour from VW in Germany and that behaviour is not acceptable."
A statistic analysis by the Associated Press news agency estimates that VW's pollution-control chicanery has not just been victimless tinkering, but is likely to be killing between five and 20 people a year in the United States, from excessive emissions of smog-forming nitrogen oxides.