VW Ordered to Recall 482,000 Cars for Using Diesel “Defeat Device”
Volkswagen Group, one of the world’s largest automakers, has been ordered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to recall 482,000 VW and Audi vehicles from the 2009 to 2015 model years with 4-cylinder diesel engines for reportedly installing “defeat” software controls to make their cars appear cleaner during emissions tests, according to the federal agency.
The software, which allegedly turns off emissions controls in regular driving, supposedly helps improve fuel efficiency and performance. Affected cars powered by 2.0-liter turbodiesel engines from model years 2009-2015 include the Volkswagen Jetta, Beetle, and Golf, in addition to the Passat from 2014 and 2015. Audi’s diesel-powered A3 from 2009 through 2015 model years also is included in the probe.
“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 Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, who noted that her agency is “working closely with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to investigate these very serious matters.”
The EPA said in a statement that Volkswagen must fix the cars’ emissions systems. However, owners of these diesel models should know that although their vehicle emissions exceed clean air standards, these violations do not present a safety hazard and the cars remain legal to drive and resell. Owners of the affected vehicles do not need to take any action at this time.
Martin Winterkorn, CEO of Volkswagen AG, said in a statement, “I personally am deeply sorry that we have broken the trust of our customers and the public. We will cooperate fully with the responsible agencies, with transparency and urgency, to clearly, openly, and completely establish all of the facts of this case.”
It’s alleged that the installed software device only turns on the emissions control systems when the diesel-powered cars are undergoing emissions testing. However, during regular driving, emissions controls turn off and vehicles produce as much as 40 times more pollutants than allowed under the EPA’s Clean Air Act.
On Friday, Sept. 18, Volkswagen Group was served with a notice of violation (NOV) and officials from the company admitted to using the “defeat” software. The control software covers up vehicle emissions of nitrogen oxide (NOx), a contributor to ozone and smog. Exposure to these pollutants has been linked to serious health problems including increased asthma attacks and other respiratory illnesses.
News reports state that California issued a separate NOV and is working with the EPA and the Justice Department on the investigation. Civil penalties and fines of as much as $37,500 per vehicle could be imposed, which could potentially total as much as $18 billion for violations.
The EPA and CARB uncovered the defeat device software after independent analysis by researchers at West Virginia University, working with the International Council on Clean Transportation, a non-governmental organization, raised questions about emissions levels. This month, the agencies demanded an explanation for the identified emission problems and said Volkswagen admitted that the cars contained defeat devices.