VW responded with a statement, which read: "Volkswagen will continue to work co-operatively with the EPA on developing remedies to bring the TDI vehicles into full compliance with regulations as soon as possible. In addition, we are working with [legal firm] Kenneth Feinberg to develop an independent, fair and swift process for resolving private consumer claims relating to these issues. We will continue to co-operate with all government agencies investigating these matters."
The filing refers both to the EA189 diesel engine derivates that were highlighted when the scandal began, the defeat device for which could reduce emissions from real-world figures by up to 40 times, and 3.0-litre diesel engines which were found to be running a "temperature conditioning" mode to reduce emissions by up to nine times when the car dedected it was undergoing tests.
The filing also highlighted the harm NOx particulates can do, as well as potential damage to ground-level ozone. The statement, which is considered an opening salvo in a case to force VW to pay compensation, read: "These pollutants are linked with asthma and other serious respiratory illnesses. Exposure to ozone and particulate matter is also associated with premature death due to respiratory-related or cardiovascular-related effects. Children, the elderly and people with pre-existing respiratory disease are particularly at risk of health effects from exposure to these pollutants. Recent studies indicate that the direct health effects of NOx are worse than previously understood, including respiratory problems, damage to lung tissue and premature death."
VW is understood to be arguing that the maximum fine would cripple the company, and that its ongoing existence depends on the courts showing leniancy. Even so, analysts are predicting that fines could reach at least £20bn.
The filing, made in Detroit on the eve of the motor show, is a civil complaint. It does not preclude the government from seeking other legal action.
Affected EA189 2.0-litre diesel models and model years include:
VW Jetta (2009-2015)
VW Jetta Sportwagen (2009-2014)
VW Beetle (2013-2015)
VW Beetle Convertible (2013-2015)
Audi A3 (2010-2015)
VW Golf (2010-2015)
VW Golf Sportwagen (2015)
VW Passat (2012-2015)
Affected 3.0-litre diesel models and model years include:
Volkswagen Touareg (2009-2016)
Porsche Cayenne (2013-2016)
Audi A6 Quattro (2014-2016)
Audi A7 Quattro (2014-2016)
Audi A8 (2014 – 2016)
Audi A8L (2014-2016)
Audi Q5 (2014-2016)
Audi Q7 (2009-2015)