VOLKSWAGEN has to recall nearly half a million cars and faces fines of at least $18 billion (£11.6bn) after being caught out cheating anti-emissions laws in the USA.
The manufacturer had been using a ‘defeat device’ to get round nitrogen oxide emissions legislation for its diesel cars, which made them seem up to 40 times cleaner than they actually were when tested.
The Environmental Protection Agency arm of the federal government condemned the manufacturer for using the computer program, saying it was ‘illegal and a threat to public health’, and tweeted:
The VW cars under investigation emit up to 40x the national standard for nitrogen oxide, which is linked to asthma & lung illnesses.
— U.S. EPA (@EPA) September 18, 2015
The cars affected – some 482,000 of them – were all built in the past seven years, and include the Beetle, Golf, Jetta and Passat models, plus the Audi A3.
According to the EPA, they each had a device that detected and activated the complete emissions control systems when official testing was taking place. The controls were deactivated for normal driving, letting the vehicles pump out more than the limit of pollutants allowed by law.
A separate compliance order has been issued by California, with an investigation to take place by the California Air Resources Board.
Volkswagen must now fix all the vehicles for free and faces being fined up to $37,500 (£24,100) per vehicle. The EPA was reported as saying it would allow VW ‘a reasonable amount of time to develop a plan to complete the repairs’, which might take anything up to 12 months.
In a statement, Professor Dr Martin Winterkorn, the chief executive officer of Volkswagen AG, said: ‘The Board of Management at Volkswagen AG takes these findings very seriously. I personally am deeply sorry that we have broken the trust of our customers and the public. We will co-operate fully with the responsible agencies, with transparency and urgency, to clearly, openly, and completely establish all of the facts of this case. Volkswagen has ordered an external investigation of this matter.
‘We do not and will not tolerate violations of any kind of our internal rules or of the law.
‘The trust of our customers and the public is and continues to be our most important asset. We at Volkswagen will do everything that must be done in order to re-establish the trust that so many people have placed in us, and we will do everything necessary in order to reverse the damage this has caused. This matter has first priority for me, personally, and for our entire Board of Management.’
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