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US Department of Justice files a lawsuit against Volkswagen

4 January 2016

The US Department of Justice (DOJ), on behalf of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), today filed a civil complaint in federal court in Detroit, MI against Volkswagen AG and other companies in the Volkswagen Group, including Audi and Porsche. The complaint alleges that nearly 600,000 diesel engine vehicles have been equipped with control software—considered an illegal emissions defeat device under the Clean Air Act—that causes emissions to exceed EPA standards. The complaint further alleges that Volkswagen violated the Clean Air Act by selling motor vehicles that are designed differently from what Volkswagen had stated in applications for certification to the EPA and the California Air Resources Board (ARB).

In the announcement about the lawsuit, the EPA expressed its disappointment with the progress on the recall process of affected Volkswagen vehicles. “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 Cynthia Giles, EPA assistant administrator for enforcement and compliance assurance.

The lawsuit filed by the DOJ/EPA is a civil complaint that seeks injunctive relief and the assessment of civil penalties. The court action does not involve criminal charges against any of the Volkswagen Group companies or against any individual executives who might have been responsible for the emissions scandal.

The action follows two EPA’s Notices of Violation, issued on September 18, 2015 for 2.0 liter engines, and November 2, 2015 for certain 3.0 liter engines. The EPA and the California ARB have found that Volkswagen equipped certain 2.0 liter vehicles with software that detects when the car is being tested for compliance with emission standards and turns on full emission controls only during that testing process. During normal driving situations the effectiveness of the emission control devices is greatly reduced—in vehicles with NOx adsorber systems, the NOx adsorber is not properly regenerated and desulfated, while insufficient amounts of urea are injected in vehicles with SCR systems. During normal on-road driving, the vehicles emit NOx at levels up to 40 times the EPA compliance level. The complaint covers approximately 499,000 2.0 liter diesel vehicles.

The EPA also found that Volkswagen equipped certain 3.0 liter vehicles with software that senses when the vehicle is undergoing emission testing. When the vehicle senses the test procedure, it operates in a “temperature conditioning” mode—which ensures rapid warm-up of the SCR catalyst—and meets 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. The complaint covers approximately 85,000 3.0 liter diesel vehicles.

The 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) and Passat (2012-2015).

The 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) and Audi Q7 (2009-2015).

Source: US EPA