Volkswagen has some explaining to do.
In what might be the most ambitious scheme ever to game government emissions inspections, the German car company placed a “defeat device” in 480,000 of its vehicles that turned off emissions controls while the car was on the road, but turned them back on when they were inspected.
Volkswagen can face civil penalties of $37,500 for each vehicle not in compliance with federal clean air rules. There are 482,000 four-cylinder VW and Audi diesel cars sold since 2008 involved in the allegations. If each car involved is found to be in noncompliance, the penalty could be $18 billion, an EPA official confirmed on the teleconference.
A U.S. Volkswagen spokesman said the company “is cooperating with the investigation; we are unable to comment further at this time.”
The feature in question, which the EPA called a “defeat device,” masks the true emissions only during testing and therefore when the cars are on the road they emit as much as 40 times the level of pollutants allowed under clean air rules meant to ensure public health is protected, Giles said.
The EPA accused Volkswagen of using software in four-cylinder Volkswagen and Audi diesel cars from model years 2009 to 2015 made to circumvent emissions testing of certain air pollutants.
The cars are not facing recall at this time, the EPA said. VW did not indicate on Friday how it will address the issue.
The EPA has the authority to order VW to recall the vehicles. However, that process could take up to a year, depending on the complexity of the issue, an EPA official said.
The diesel-powered vehicles involved from the 2009 to 2015 model years are the VW Jetta, VW Beetle, VW Golf and the Audi A3, as well as the VW Passat from model years 2014 and 2015.
VW in North America has heavily marketed its vehicles as being “clean diesel.”
In a television commercial that has aired frequently this year in the United States, VW says it is the “No. 1 diesel car brand in America,” brags its cars are “clean diesel” and asks viewers, “Isn’t it time for German engineering?”
Chances are, Volkswagen is not going to owe the entire $18 billion. Some sort of settlement will be reached. But you have to wonder how they’re going to fix all 482,000 cars. You can’t have vehicles on the road spewing 40 times the legal amount of pollutants. The company is going to pay for their trickery and pay heavily.
If I had stock in Volkswagen, I’d dump it in a Dusseldorf minute.