The Obama administration on Friday accused Volkswagen of using a “sophisticated software algorithm” to cheat on emissions testing and mask the fact that some models emit too much harmful pollution.
Some Volkswagen cars from model years 2009 to 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency said, include software that can detect when they’re undergoing emissions testing. Full emissions controls were activated only during testing and then automatically shut down during normal operation, the agency charged.
“Using a defeat device in cars to evade clean air standards is illegal and a threat to public health,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “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.”
During normal operation, the “defeat device” allowed Volkswagen cars to emit nitrogen oxides at up to 40 times the federal threshold as laid out in the Clean Air Act.
The EPA has issued “a notice of violation” to the automaker, and the state of California has launched its own investigation into the matter. Volkswagen could face civil penalties for the violations, the agency said.
The allegations apply to about 482,000 diesel passenger cars sold since 2008, including Jettas, Beetles, Audi A3s, Golfs and other models.
In a statement, Volkswagen said it will cooperate with the ongoing federal and state investigations.
“Volkswagen Group of America, Inc., Volkswagen AG and Audi AG received today notice from the U.S Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Justice and the California Air Resources Board of an investigation related to certain emissions compliance matters. VW is cooperating with the investigation; we are unable to comment further at this time,” the automaker said.