Volkswagen has owned up to thousands of vehicles on New Zealand roads being caught in its global emissions-cheating software scandal.

The company has identified 4639 cars, utes and vans sold since 2009 with offending four-cylinder EA 189 diesel engines.

It initially said vehicles in this country, imported from the European Union market, were unaffected by the scandal but at the weekend announced that it had halted the sale of 21 new Tiguan SUVs and 15 Caddy vans to customers.

It has today published on its website a link to a German database into which owners can enter vehicle identification (VIN) numbers to check whether they have "defeat device" software which the United States Environment Protections Agency found last month was suppressing smog-forming nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions during tests.

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The agency found that those soared by up to 40 times the permitted level in everyday driving.

VW New Zealand general manager Tom Ruddenklau said his divisions had delayed publication of the link while trying to ensure as many models as possible were included on the database.

But it appeared on the company's site this morning, despite the continued omission of 874 Amarok utes, after owners started finding their own way to the database.

The affected vehicles are among about 11 million swept up in the global scandal, although Mr Ruddenklau said they still represented only a minority of the 75,000 or so VWs sold in New Zealand.

This country's casualities of the scandal include:

• 1411 Tiguan SUVs manufactured from 2009 to 2015
• 1357 Passats cars (2009-15)
• 874 Amarok utes (2011-12)
• 680 Golf cars (2009-13
• 312 Caddy vans (2011-15)
• 2 Polo cars (2011)
• 2 Sharan people movers (2013)
• 1 Touran people mover (2011)

Auckland VW owner Grant Smitton said he had verified from the German database at the weekend that his 2010 Tiguan SUV, for which he paid "top dollar" to obtain the highest specification model available on the basis of factors such as its superior fuel economy and "clean diesel" technology, had the offending software.

He had only just received his car back from a workshop after major transmission repairs.

"Getting back into the Tiguan with better fuel economy, power, size and comfort was great, but now, with the emissions scandal, I'm not sure what to do," Mr Smitton told the Herald.

He could not envisage an easy fix to the engine problem, without compromising fuel economy, so "would be happy with a refund or a replacement with a compliant diesel".

Mr Ruddenklau said he was happy to talk to customers such as Mr Smitton about their concerns, but believed his company should be given a chance to try to remedy the problem before deciding what else to do about it.

He said a new model Tiguan, with a different diesel engine, would not be available in this country until May.

To find the link to the German VW vehicle database, visit: http://www.volkswagen.co.nz/diesel-emission-statement

The German database includes a message to customers caught up in the scandal, assuring them that their cars are "safe from a technical standpoint and roadworthy."

It says: "We are very sorry to have broken your trust and are working at full speed to find a technical solution."

And it promises that Volkswagen will "cover the cost of all necessary measures, and do everything in its power to win back your trust."

Local VW dealers would contact affected customers as soon as possible to tell them what measures needed to be taken.