Feds accuse VW of going around federal emissions standards

Feds accuse VW of going around federal emissions standards
© Getty Images

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is accusing Volkswagen of looking to circumvent federal air pollutant emission standards for the last six years.  

EPA officials alleged Friday that about 482,000 VW vehicles sold since 2008 violate the Clean Air Act due to software installed on the vehicles that turns off required air pollution protections. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Janet McCabe, an acting assistant administrator, said the EPA “intends to hold VW responsible to recall the vehicles” and fix the emissions problem. The company could face up to an $18 billion fine for the violations.

The EPA issued VW a Clean Air Act violation notice Friday, alleging it used a software algorithm on certain vehicles that would turn on emission controls only when they undergo official emissions testing.

This "defeat device,” the EPA said, would switch off those controls during normal operation, which means the vehicles could emit up to 40 times the amount of nitrogen oxide allowed under federal air pollution standards. 

“These violations are very serious … not only because they result in excess emissions, but also because VW was concealing the fact from EPA, the state of California and from consumers,” Assistant Administrator Cynthia Giles said. “We expected better from VW.”

Federal law requires manufacturers to certify to the EPA that their cars meet emissions standards before selling their vehicles in the U.S. Cars with defeat devices cannot be certified, the EPA said.

A VW statement said only that the company had received the violation notice and is cooperating with the investigation.

The EPA and the California Air Resources Board discovered the defeat device during an analysis at West Virginia State University, the EPA said. Officials said their investigation into the incident is ongoing and wouldn’t give many more details about how it developed or what the outcome might be.

The agency is not ordering a recall or announcing penalties at the moment, and officials said the cars are safe and legal to drive. The Friday announcement, Giles said, was meant to “inform the public right away and to put VW on notice of our continuing investigation.”

The EPA said the announcement covers VW Jettas, Beetles, Golfs and Audi A3s with model years between 2009 and 2015, as well as the VW Passat with model years 2014 and 2015. 

Company: