New York, Massachusetts and Maryland are suing Volkswagen and other automakers over their diesel vehicle emissions, launching new allegations about the breadth of the cheating scandal that emerged last year.
The lawsuits, announced on Tuesday, allege that executives at VW, Audi and Porsche, including VW’s then-CEO, worked to cover up the creation of “defeat devices” designed to skirt federally required emissions testing.
At a press conference, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman called the work a “willful and systemic scheme” that stretched “up to the highest levels of these companies.”
VW has previously blamed a group of engineers for the emissions scandal. The defeat devices were embedded in vehicles and designed to emit less emissions only when being tested.
But Schneiderman said investigators found no evidence any executive tried to stop the use of the devices once they knew about them, and he slammed VW for “utterly untrue” advertising about “clean” vehicles that instead generated pollutants far above acceptable levels.
“This was not, indeed, the work of some rouge employee but rather a calculated, concerted effort by dozens of employees and executives who worked together to mislead regulators, researchers and the public,” Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said at the press conference.
The company sold 40,000 vehicles with defeat devices in New York and Massachusetts, the suit says. It seeks penalties large enough to discourage other companies from engaging in similar actions, the attorneys general said.
“The idea that this level of fraud could take place and involve so many people at such high levels of these international cooperations for so long is appalling,” Schneiderman said.
A Volkswagen spokesperson said the new allegations are “essentially not new and we have been addressing them in our discussions with U.S. federal and state authorities.”
“Volkswagen continues to work cooperatively with the U.S. Department of Justice, the Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board on a comprehensive national resolution of all remaining environmental issues arising from the diesel matter,” the statement said.
VW last month agreed to spend up to $14.7 billion to settle numerous lawsuits against it related to the emissions scandal. Up to $10.03 billion of that will go toward repairing or rebuying VW and Audi cars with 2-liter diesel engines, with $2.7 billion put toward environmental mitigation work and $2 billion for research into zero-emissions vehicles.
In addition to the new state complaints against it, VW also faces a federal lawsuit alleging false advertising for its “clean diesel” vehicles.