Port, Pasha become hub for recalled Volkswagens

If you see a surprising number of trucks hauling loads of Volkswagen diesel cars traveling through the East County area and Aberdeen, it’s because Port of Grays Harbor facilities are being used to collect the cars and prepare them for their eventual return to the market after problems are fixed.

The recall came after it was discovered Volkswagen had doctored their vehicles to provide U.S. diagnostics equipment with a false emissions level that fit with U.S. standards, even though the cars’ emissions were truly not. When the deceit was discovered, Volkswagen was forced to recall thousands of vehicles sold in the U.S.

“The influx of recalled cars overflows Terminal 4, so additional space is being used at the Satsop Business Park,” said Leonard Barnes, Deputy Executive Director for the Port. Most of the cars coming in are from Washington, but some from Oregon and even a few from Alaska have shown up at the Port.

According to Satsop Business Park manager Alissa Shay, Pasha Automotive has leased 26 acres in the “main park” – the main section of the park around the cooling towers – and another 29 acres in the “west park,” which is the area of the park toward the location of Grays Harbor Energy’s facility.

Whether these areas are being used to take in cars before heading to Pasha’s Terminal 4 location to be made ready for market, or if the Satsop Business Park locations are being used to store cars once Pasha is done with them, is unknown. Penny Eubanks, general manager of Pasha’s Terminal 4 location, said she was not at liberty to discuss any details about Pasha’s agreement with Volkswagen regarding the recalled vehicles.

The actual number of cars coming in is not known either. Barnes said, “Dealers notify us when they have a truck coming. And they’re still coming.” The Volkswagen scandal involved about a half million cars in the U.S. alone, and the Port is one of only a handful of locations in the nation with an agreement to take them, which could mean a lot of VWs coming through town.

On Friday the company pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and conspiracy over the scheme to program nearly 600,000 vehicles to deceive the Environmental Protection Agency, according to the Associated Press. Sentencing is next month.

VW also agreed to pay $4.3 billion in criminal and civil penalties. While that is the largest-ever fine imposed by the U.S. government on an automaker, the company could have been on the hook for much more.

Federal sentencing guidelines called for fines from $17 billion to $34 billion due to the size of the plot and because VW employees destroyed documents and data after learning of the government investigation, the AP reported.

The company has already spent more than $11 billion for vehicle buybacks. VW’s total cost of the scandal now has been estimated at more than $21 billion, according to Associated Press reporting.

When a dealership in this region gets enough cars to ship, they’re trucked to Port property.

“They are brought in by truck, and then offloaded,” said Barnes. “Pasha takes care of offloading them and doing everything to them the manufacturer would want, following certain criteria to get the cars back to the dealerships.” Pasha typically readies cars for export from their facility, and has a large detailing center on their Port property for that reason. The Terminal 4 Pasha location boasts 18-plus acres of paved and new auto processing facilities, including an automated wash system and three drive-over undercoating pits.

Once Pasha has finished its work, the cars will eventually make it back to dealerships, which will be responsible for fixing the emissions issues on the cars. Once that is done, the cars should be ready for resale on the used car market.

“It has created quite a few jobs,” said Barnes, “Teamster jobs,” people who do the unloading and work in Pasha’s detailing facility.