Volkswagen Gets Sued by US Government Over Emissions Cheating
The Justice Department recently sued Volkswagen over emissions-cheating software found in nearly 600,000 vehicles sold in the US, potentially exposing the company to billions in fines for clean-air violations.
The complaint against the German automaker, filed on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency in US District Court in Detroit, alleges the company illegally installed software designed to make its "clean diesel" engines pass federal emissions standards while undergoing laboratory tests. The vehicles then switched off those measures to boost performance in real-world driving conditions, which caused them to spew out green house gases at up to 40 times the rate allowed, under federal environmental standards.
Car manufacturers that fail to properly certify their cars and that defeat emission control systems breach the public trust, endanger public health and disadvantage its competitors," said John Cruden, the Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division.
The company is in the midst of negotiating a massive mandatory recall with US regulators and potentially faces $18 billion in fines for violations of the Federal Clean Air Act.
The company and its executives could also still face separate criminal charges, while a raft of private class-action lawsuits filed by the many angry VW owners, are still pending, in amounts totally in excess of $48 billion. Although such US lawsuits are typically settled at a fraction of the theoretical maximum penalty, analysts said the size of the claim meant that VW could face a larger bill than previously anticipated. According to Reuters Review of the US complaint, VW could in theory face fines of as much as $37,500 per vehicle for each of two violations of the law, up to $3,750 per "defeat device," and another $37,500 for each day of violation. Equinet analyst, Holger Schmidt, said that no one, at this point, is able to make anything but wild guesses on potential fines.
In addition to producing far more pollution than allowed experts say the excess nitrogen oxide and particulate emissions from the more than half-million VW vehicles had a human cost. A statistical and computer analysis of the Associated Press estimated that extra pollution caused somewhere between 16 and 94 deaths over the last seven years, with the annual toll increasing also, as more of the diesels were on the road.
"The United States will pursue all appropriate remedies against Volkswagen to redress the violations of our nation's clean air laws," said Cruden, and we are alleging that they knew what they were doing, and they intentionally violated the law and that the consequences were significant to the health of the people.