Volkswagen, now the world’s biggest automaker, has been ordered to repair 482,000 vehicles that violate clean air standards. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took the action late yesterday after finding the automaker intentionally violated clean air statutes by using software that let’s vehicles get around clean air rules. According to the AP, the automaker could face billions in penalties.
According to the EPA, VW and Audi cars made during the last seven years have been equipped with a programmable device that allows the vehicles to skirt the rules. The device apparently monitors the OBD-II port as the vehicles involved only are in compliance with clean air rules whenever they are being inspected. Clean air inspection checks are the only time the vehicles comply with the rules at other times, the device turns off “inspection mode,” allowing the vehicles to run more freely. VW said it is cooperating with the EPA investigation, declining further comment. The automaker can face fines of up to $37,500 per vehicle. That could make the total penalty more than $18 billion. VW is parent to VW and Audi.
The California Clean Air Board (CARB), in a separate action, announced that it was conducting an investigation into VW’s action and issued a compliance order to the automaker.
Calling VW’s use of a “defeat device” illegal and a threat to public health, the agency’s administrator for enforcement and compliance assurance, Cynthia Giles, said: “”EPA is committed to making sure that all automakers play by the same rules.”
Unlike a safety recall, where owners are told to bring their vehicles in as soon as possible to have the problem check, owners can still drive their diesel and VW vehicles. The problem is not a safety hazard, the agency said, and the vehicles can remain on sale. EPA, however, has called on the automaker to make the fix. The agency said it could take up to year to fully develop and implement a corrective plan. EPA said that it would give VW “a reasonable amount of time to develop” a repair plan. Environmentalists were quick to praise the EPA and CARB actions and condemn the automaker. The vehicles involved include:
Jetta – 2009-2015
VW Beetle – 2009-2015
Audi A3 – 2009-2015
Golf – 2009-2015
Passat – 2014-2015