U.S. Sues Volkswagen Over Emissions Defeat Devices

2012 VW Jetta TDI Sportwagen, one of the affected models. February 18, 2012, (Photo by Jessica Merz)


DETROIT, Michigan, January 5, 2015 (ENS) – Nearly 600,000 vehicles powered by diesel engines that had illegal emissions defeating devices installed have landed Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche in U.S. Federal Court in Detroit.

The complaint, filed Monday by the U.S. Department of Justice, on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, alleges that the three automakers equipped certain 2.0 liter vehicles with software that detects when the car is being tested for compliance with EPA emissions standards and turns on full emissions controls only during that testing process.

2012 VW Jetta TDI Sportwagen, one of the affected models. February 18, 2012, (Photo by Jessica Merz)

During normal driving situations the effectiveness of the emissions control devices is greatly reduced. This results in cars that meet emissions standards in the laboratory and at the test site, but during normal on-road driving emit nitrogen oxides (NOx) at levels up to 40 times the EPA compliance level.

The complaint further alleges that Volkswagen and the other two automakers also equipped certain 3.0 liter vehicles with software that senses when the vehicle is undergoing federal emissions testing.

When these vehicles sense the test procedure, they operate in a “temperature conditioning” mode and meet emissions standards.

At all other times, including during normal vehicle operation, the vehicles operate in a “normal mode” that permits NOx emissions of up to nine times the federal standard.

In total, the complaint covers approximately 499,000 2.0 liter diesel vehicles and 85,000 3.0 liter diesel vehicles sold in the United States since the 2009 model year.

The complaint also alleges that Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche, collectively referred to as Volkswagen, violated the Clean Air Act by selling, introducing into commerce, or importing into the United States, motor vehicles that are designed differently from what Volkswagen had stated in applications for certification to EPA and the California Air Resources Board.

2013 Porsche Cayenne Diesel, one of the affected models (Photo by German Car Specialists)

“With today’s filing, we take an important step to protect public health by seeking to hold Volkswagen accountable for any unlawful air pollution, setting us on a path to resolution,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for enforcement and compliance assurance at EPA.

“So far, recall discussions with the company have not produced an acceptable way forward. These discussions will
continue in parallel with the federal court action,” said Giles.

“Car manufacturers that fail to properly certify their cars and that defeat emission control systems breach the public trust, endanger public health and disadvantage competitors,” said Assistant Attorney General John Cruden for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.

“The United States will pursue all appropriate remedies against Volkswagen to redress the violations of our nation’s clean air laws alleged in the complaint.”

“VW’s illegal defeat devices have resulted in thousands of tons of excess NOx emissions in California, a state where more than 12 million people live in areas that exceed air quality standards set to protect public health,” said Mary Nichols, who chairs the California Air Resources Board (CARB).

Audi A7 3.0 TDi Quattro (Photo by nakhon100)

“The California Air Resources Board is fully coordinating its investigation with the federal EPA and DOJ to address the environmental harm VW has caused,” she said.

The United States’ investigation is ongoing, in close coordination with CARB.

EPA and CARB have been in active discussion with Volkswagen about potential remedies and recalls to address the noncompliance, and those discussions are ongoing.

When the scandal broke last fall, Volkswagen admitted its errors.

In October, Volkswagen’s new Chief Executive Herbert Diess apologized for the automaker’s emissions-cheating activities. Speaking at the Tokyo Motor Show, Diess promised his company would work hard to win back customer trust.

Affected 2.0 liter diesel models and model years include:

Jetta (2009-2015)
Jetta Sportwagen (2009-2014)
Beetle (2013-2015)
Beetle Convertible (2013-2015)
Audi A3 (2010-2015)
Golf (2010-2015)
Golf Sportwagen (2015)
Passat (2012-2015)

Affected 3.0 liter diesel models and model years include:

Volkswagen Touareg (2009-2016)
Porsche Cayenne (2013-2016)
Audi A6 Quattro (2014-2016)
Audi A7 Quattro (2014-2016)
Audi A8 (2014 – 2016)
Audi A8L (2014-2016)
Audi Q5 (2014-2016)
Audi Q7 (2009-2015)

NOx pollution contributes to harmful ground-level ozone and fine particulate matter. These pollutants are linked with asthma and other serious respiratory illnesses. Exposure to ozone and particulate matter is also associated with premature death due to respiratory-related or cardiovascular-related effects.

Children, the elderly, and people with pre-existing respiratory disease are particularly at risk of health effects from exposure to these pollutants.

Recent studies indicate that the direct health effects of NOx are worse than previously understood, including respiratory problems, damage to lung tissue, and premature death, the EPA says.

Monday’s filing of a civil complaint under Sections 204 and 205 of the Clean Air Act seeks injunctive relief and the assessment of civil penalties.

A civil complaint does not preclude the government from seeking other legal remedies. The United States will seek to transfer its case and fully participate in the pretrial proceedings now initiated in the related multi-district litigation in the Northern District of California.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2016. All rights reserved.


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