600,000 cars alleged to have breached regulations in USA; fines of up to £25,500 per car possible
Jim Holder
4 January 2016

The Department of Justice in the United States has filed a court action against Volkswagen, alleging that nearly 600,000 Audi, Porsche and Volkswagen cars had illegal defeat devices enabled.

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."

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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)


Join the debate


4 January 2016
VW should sue their own Federal Republic, the EU and then the IPCC for forcing them to jump through ever-more useless hoops, none of which has achieved anything at all except landing the company in this dire mess. On the plus side, the Americans can always use VW's money to bail out their own ever-useless car business. Again.

4 January 2016
Norma Smellons wrote:

VW should sue their own Federal Republic, the EU and then the IPCC for forcing them to jump through ever-more useless hoops, none of which has achieved anything at all except landing the company in this dire mess. On the plus side, the Americans can always use VW's money to bail out their own ever-useless car business. Again.

This comment appears to be aimed at a new low in terms of intelligent thought. So, by your reckoning, defendants accused of crime should pursue legal proceedings against the state for issuing such silly things called laws? They were stipulated pretty clearly, if they couldn't make a car that satisfied them then they shouldn't have attempted to sell one.

It is an established scientific and medical fact that nitrous oxide exposure is associated with increased mortality and is responsible for the deaths of thousands, albeit indirectly, every year. Moreover, it is not as if the ratings were impossible to reach - BMW it would appear to have mastered them even in the gargantuan X5. VW were caught fiddling in the most outrageous way - it is not as if they were about to own up. Unbelievable that people are prepared to even think this is excusable and then to blame 'greens'!

5 January 2016
ersatz wrote:

So, by your reckoning, defendants accused of crime should pursue legal proceedings against the state for issuing such silly things called laws?

This is not a criminal case; no law has been broken with respect to emissions. It appears that *regulations* have not been adhered to but that does not automatically imply criminality. Note that the proceedings initiated by the US State are in fact Civil. They're not even particularly strong, appearing to be based on the ludicrous notion that a tiny number of Volkswagens could trigger a public health crisis. In contrast, a hypothetical *criminal* case against VW might rest on deception or that the failure to adhere was deliberate. But that is some way off and it is not what my comment was about. It is arguable that, through their focus on CO2, various governmental and supra-national bodies have pressured companies like Volkswagen into a position where it does not benefit them to focus on the reduction of anything other than CO2. Meanwhile, deadly pollutants have largely been ignored since CO2 was tied to vehicle tax 16 years ago. This is fundamentally wrong and runs against the interests of both consumers and producers. CO2 is generally harmless to humans and has never been proven to have anything to do with the planet's temperature. In America, there is not nearly the same hysteria with respect to CO2 and "ordinary" pollutants like NOx quite rightly remain in focus. It is hardly surprising that a predominantly European manufacturer was undone by testers in America, as it desperately tried to adhere to the ever-more ridiculous regulations imposed by its own government.

6 January 2016
I guess you are a climate change denier. If so, I appreciate I am on a hiding to nothing - you obviously know so much more than just about every climate scientist going (apart from Jeremy Corbyn's brother). I will wait for the maunder minimum you must anticipate. The thing is, I really do hope you are right - it is just rather a bit of a gamble in my opinion.

I will ask you though why the, oh so desperate struggle to lower CO2, affected the amount of NO2 being pumped out only in VWs and associated vehicles? Similarly, why did the desperate struggle to adhere to these regulations not phase BMW?

Whilst I appreciate it is not a criminal case, I was drawing an analogy with your unusual line of reasoning. Nonetheless, I suspect you will see rather a lot of criminal cases being drawn up regarding the whole sorry saga soon.

6 January 2016
If all these governments around the world were so concerned with saving the planet from pollution being caused by cars they would have long ago decreed that all new cars could have a maximum engine size of 1.0 litre and/or a maximum output of 100bhp, with a maximum of 80g/km CO2 - no exceptions whatsoever. But the truth is they aren't, because it's a fallacy. The scientists cottoned on to the fact that if they say something threatens the future of mankind the research grants would just keep on coming, and the politicians cottoned on to the fact that if they went along with it all they could present themselves as doing something for the planet and being worthy and public-spirited. So let's see them all, and all of those who support the so-called saving of the planet, call for that and put it into immediate action. Start it now. Campaign for 1.0 litre, 100bhp and 80g/km CO2 as a maximum for all new cars from now on.

I don't need to put my name here, it's on the left


5 January 2016
What, you wanna scrap emissions regulations Ms Smellons ? Clearly you must think ALL car manufacturers have to "jump through hoops" to meet regs, or maybe you love VW so much you think they should be allowed to circumnavigate the regs whilst everyone else follows them ?

XXXX just went POP.

5 January 2016
The responsibility for 'landing the company in this dire mess' lies entirely with the company.

4 January 2016
Does anyone know if any of the betting companies are offering a punt on the fine? I reckon around 14B USD in total. Pulled that figure out of thin air, but would still put £10 on it.

5 January 2016
The perfect way to get all that money they spent bailing out there own car industry not so long ago.

5 January 2016
Porsche have kept very quiet up to now, wonder if any Cayenne owners are confused as to why their very premium cars are being implicated.

typos1 - Just can’t respect opinion


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