Volkswagen may be recalling nearly half a million vehicles due to issues with the emission software used by the company. The Environmental Protection Agency accused the German automaker of attempting to trick regulators and evade federal emission regulations. The regulatory agency filed a notice of violation stating that the company deliberately cheated on clean-air rules.
The federal agency said in a statement that the company used a “defeat device” to trick inspectors into certifying that its vehicles met Clean Air Act standards. The agency said the diesel cars that violated federal standard emitted nitrogen oxides at up to 40 times the standard level. Nitrogen oxides can increase the severity of respiratory conditions such as asthma.
The software was installed on roughly 482,000 diesel cars in the U.S., including the 2009-14 Volkswagen Jetta, Beetle and Golf, the 2014-15 Volkswagen Passat, and the 2009-15 Audi A3. Roughly 20 percent of Volkswagen’s vehicle sales are diesel engines. The EPA said owners do not need to take immediate action and that Volkswagen will be required to fix the cars for free.
The maximum Clean Air Act violation is $37,500 per vehicle. At that number, Volkswagen’s fine could technically be as high as $18 billion. Volkswagen may face other penalties as well as lawsuits for marketing its cars as “Clean Diesel,” which was one of the biggest selling point for the vehicles. It is too soon to tell whether the company will face criminal charges as well.
The device was discovered by EPA and California regulators after questions were raised about the emissions levels in Volkswagen cars by researchers at the International Council on Clean Transportation and West Virginia University. The EPA investigation is ongoing.
Volkswagen admitted that it had installed the defeat device when questioned by investigators. The automaker released a statement saying that it’s cooperating with EPA regulators on the investigation. The state of California has also launched an investigation into the matter.