VW accused of using software in 482000 diesels to skirt US clean air rules
No fine for now; VW ‘put on notice’ by EPA
Volkswagen and Audi sold about 482,000 diesel vehicles with illegal emissions-control software designed to make their cars appear cleaner in testing than they are in the real world, the EPA said today.
The software, included on VW and Audi vehicles from the 2009-15 model years with 2.0-liter turbodiesel engines, detects when a car is undergoing EPA emissions testing and turns on the vehicle’s full emissions controls. The software then switched off the full emissions controls during real-world driving, the EPA said in a statement.
EPA officials called the software a “defeat device” that allowed VW and Audi vehicles to fulfill emissions standards in lab testing, but emit nitrogen oxides at up to 40 times allowable levels in real-world driving.
The claims are also outlined in a letter and notice sent by EPA officials to VW executives today.
“These violations are very serious, not only because illegal defeat devices result in excess emissions many times the allowable standard, but also because VW was concealing the facts from EPA, the state of California and consumers,” Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, said in a conference call. “We expected better from VW.”
No fines have been ordered for now, as the investigation is continuing, but the EPA decided to announce the alleged violations to inform the public and “to put VW on notice of our continuing investigation,” Giles said. The investigation is being conducted in cooperation with California regulators.
Under federal law, the EPA can levy a maximum possible fine of $37,500 per vehicle, EPA officials said on a conference call with reporters today, meaning VW and Audi face potential fines of up to $18 billion for the alleged violations.
The EPA and the California Air Resources Board began investigating Volkswagen after an independent analysis raised questions about the vehicles’ emissions levels, the EPA said in a statement.
“In September, after EPA and CARB demanded an explanation for the identified emission problems, Volkswagen admitted that the cars contained defeat devices,” the agency said.
“The dogged detective work in the lab provided the data and resulted in an admission that VW did indeed have a defeat device in its software for diesel cars,” Richard Corey, executive officer of the California Air Resources Board, said on the conference call.
VW officials were not available for immediate comment.
Janet McCabe, acting assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Air & Radiation, said that the agency will “hold VW responsible” for recalling the affected vehicles to reduce the excess emissions, but said no recall order was issued as part of today’s announcement.
The affected vehicles are:
• 2009-15 model year VW Jetta, Beetle, Golf and Audi A3
• 2014-15 model year VW Passat
The alleged violations are a blow to Volkswagen, which has heavily marketed its wide range of “Clean Diesel” cars to stand out from the competition.
Vehicles with diesel engines account for a higher percentage of VW’s U.S. sales than any other brand. VW has also leaned on the performance of its diesel lineup as a key message to boost demand amid tepid U.S. sales, which are down 2.8 percent through August.
The alleged violations also come just days before VW plans to reveal a significantly updated 2016 Passat midsize sedan to journalists at an event in New York City on Monday, in which Lenny Kravitz was booked to perform.
The article VW accused of using software in 482,000 diesels to skirt U.S. clean-air rules orginally appeared in Automotive News