Rebecca Bernard
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US Justice Department Sues Volkswagen

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VW TDI Clean Diesel


In a move that surprised no one, the United States Justice Department filed a civil lawsuit against Volkswagen today for its violations of the Clean Air Act and the following cover up.* The only surprising thing is how long this legal action was coming, since the Dieselgate scandal came to light when the Environmental Protection Agency issued its first Notices of Violation on September 18th.  I like to think that maybe the Justice Department was too busy dealing with important social issues, but in reality they were probably making sure all details were in order.

The lawsuit was filed in Detroit’s civil court by the Department of Justice on behalf of the EPA, and the lawsuit names not just the Volkswagen Auto Group but the separate Audi and Porsche brands and the automaker’s American arm, Volkswagen Group of America Chattanooga Operations LLC. The papers filed in court also give the final estimate of nearly 600,000 diesel engines sold since the 2009 model year loaded with the defeat devices to cheat emissions testing.

The official press release from the Justice Department offers more details about how the diesel engines cheated on emissions tests. The 2.0-liter engine simply turned on its emissions controls when being tested, and switched them off when in normal operation (emitting up to 40 times the nitrous oxide allowed by law). The 3.0-liter engines under investigation would switch into a “temperature conditioning” mode during testing to emit the proper level of nitrous oxide.

It is never good when a vehicle performs differently on the road than in testing (just ask Hyundai), but tricking the government on purpose can be compared to poking a sleeping bear. VW has already admitted to cheating the tests, which means that at this point it’s just a question of how many billions of dollars in fines and reparations to current owners VW will have to pay. Conservative estimates say that VW could be fined up to $18 billion, and that’s not including additional fines California can impose thanks to its stricter emissions rules.

The filing will now move to the Northern District of California, since that is where class action lawsuits have already been filed. If you’re still a fan of VW after its trickery, check back this week to learn more about the concept vehicle VW is bringing to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

*If you are confused by this legal action, you can learn more about Dieselgate here.

A Dayton native, Rebecca got her start blogging at the curiously named Harlac’s Tongue while studying abroad in the UK. She loves tooling around town with her Ford Focus named Jerome to the song they’re playing on the radio. On any given weekend, you can find her with her camera at area festivals, concerts, and car shows, shopping at flea markets, or taking an adventure on the open road. See more articles by Rebecca.