Specifically, the complaint alleges that nearly 600,000 vehicles equipped with diesel engines (counting 3-liter Audi and Porsche diesels) contained defeat devices which impaired the engines' emission control systems and exceeded the EPA's standards. The DOJ claims that VW violated the Clean Air Act by installing and selling vehicles equipped with these defeat devices.
“VW's illegal defeat devices have resulted in thousands of tons of excess NOx emissions in California, a state where more than 12 million people live in areas that exceed air quality standards set to protect public health,” said CARB Chair Mary D. Nichols. “The California Air Resources Board is fully coordinating its investigation with the federal EPA and DOJ to address the environmental harm VW has caused.”
The filing of the suit raises the possibility VW may face greater-than-contemplated damages in the U.S., even after European authorities agreed to the technical fixes proposed by the auto maker. The suit itself, however, does not relate to the future acceptance or rejection of technical measures that VW has offered to U.S. authorities, so an approval of a technical fix in the coming weeks is unlikely to affect the suit itself since the violations, by the DOJ's assertions, occurred in years prior.
The DOJ claims that VW 2-liter engines emitted up to 40 times the federal standard, while 3.0-liter engines emitted up to nine times the federal standard.
The suit itself, which was filed in the Eastern District of Michigan and which will be transferred to the Northern District of California, seeks injunctive relief as well as civil penalties.
“Car manufacturers that fail to properly certify their cars and that defeat emission control systems breach the public trust, endanger public health and disadvantage competitors,” said Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden for the DOJ's Environment and Natural Resources Division.
“The United States will pursue all appropriate remedies against Volkswagen to redress the violations of our nation's clean air laws alleged in the complaint.”
This report appeared on the website of Autoweek magazine, a Detroit-based sister publication of Tire Business.