The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) have revealed that while testing diesel cars from the Volkswagen Group, they detected manipulations that violate American environmental standards.
The EPA issued notice of a violation (NOV) of the Clean Air Act (CAA) to the Volkswagen Group of America (collectively referred to as Volkswagen). The NOV alleges that four-cylinder Volkswagen and Audi diesel cars from model years 2009-2015 included software that circumvents EPA emissions standards for certain air pollutants. This allowed Volkswagen cars to emit less during tests than they would under normal driving conditions.
The affected diesel models include: the Volkswagen Jetta (Model Years 2009 - 2015), VW Beetle (Model Years 2009 - 2015), the Audi A3 (Model Years 2009 - 2015), VW Golf (Model Years 2009 - 2015), and Volkswagen Passat (Model Years 2014-2015).
Assistant Administrator for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, Cynthia Giles said: "Using a defeat device in cars to evade clean air standards is illegal and a threat to public health. Working closely with the California Air Resources Board, EPA is committed to making sure that all automakers play by the same rules. EPA will continue to investigate these very serious matters."
Air Resources Board Executive Officer Richard Corey said: "Our goal now is to ensure that the affected cars are brought into compliance, to dig more deeply into the extent and implications of Volkswagen's efforts to cheat on clean air rules, and to take appropriate further action."
The EPA said that the fine for each vehicle that did not comply with federal clean air rules would be up to $37,500 (£24,000). With 482,000 cars sold since 2008 involved in the allegations, it means that fines could reach $18bn.
A statement from the CEO of Volkswagen AG, Prof. Dr. Martin Winterkorn reads: "The Board of Management at Volkswagen AG takes these findings very seriously. I personally am deeply sorry that we have broken the trust of our customers and the public. We will cooperate fully with the responsible agencies, with transparency and urgency, to clearly, openly, and completely establish all of the facts of this case. Volkswagen has ordered an external investigation of this matter. We do not and will not tolerate violations of any kind of our internal rules or of the law."
He also concluded: "The trust of our customers and the public is and continues to be our most important asset. We at Volkswagen will do everything that must be done in order to re-establish the trust that so many people have placed in us, and we will do everything necessary in order to reverse the damage this has caused. This matter has first priority for me, personally, and for our entire Board of Management."
As described in the NOV, a sophisticated software algorithm on certain Volkswagen vehicles detects when the car is undergoing official emissions testing, and turns full emissions controls on, only during the test. The effectiveness of these vehicles' pollution emissions control devices is greatly reduced during all normal driving situations. This results in cars that meet emissions standards in the laboratory or testing station, but during normal operation, emit nitrogen oxides, or NOx, at up to 40 times the standard. The software produced by Volkswagen is a "defeat device," as defined by the Clean Air Act.
The EPA says it is incumbent upon Volkswagen to initiate the process that will fix the cars' emissions systems. Owners should know that although these vehicles have emissions exceeding standards, these violations do not present a safety hazard and the cars remain legal to drive and resell. Owners of cars of these models and years do not need to take any action at this time.