The action opens the way for fines being imposed against VW. This could be as high as £61 billion if the maximum fine of up to £25,500 per vehicle is imposed.
The complaint was filed on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and alleges that the VW Group's actions not only led its vehicles to "cause emissions to exceed its standards", but also that VW's actions led it to violate the Clean Air Act "by selling, introducing into commerce, or importing into the United States motor vehicles that are designed differently from what Volkswagen had stated in applications for certification".
The case is related to the USA only, and does not cover the alleged CO2 infingements also uncovered during the scandal.
“Car manufacturers that fail to properly certify their cars and that defeat emission control systems breach the public trust, endanger public health and disadvantage competitors,” said assistant attorney general John C. Cruden for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “The United States will pursue all appropriate remedies against Volkswagen to redress the violations of our nation’s clean air laws alleged in the complaint.”
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."