Sunday

14th Aug 2022

US states seek 'substantial penalties' from VW

  • Decision to use cheating software in diesel cars was taken as far back as 1999, according to a US lawsuit (Photo: Robert Couse-Baker)

Volkswagen's emission fraud began earlier than previously thought, was deliberately done to mislead regulators, executed with the knowledge of upper management, and was covered up.

That harsh summary of what became known as Dieselgate, was given on Tuesday (19 July) by three United States law enforcement chiefs - the attorneys general in the states New York, Massachusetts, and Maryland - who announced they wanted “substantial penalties” from the German industrial giant.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

“The allegations against Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche reveal a culture of deeply rooted corporate arrogance, combined with a conscious disregard for the rule of law or the protection of public health and the environment,” New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman said in his lawsuit, according to US media.

He said that internal documents from Volkswagen Group (VW) proved that the company decided to use cheating software to turn off emissions filtering systems in diesel cars as far back as 1999.

It was at VW's daughter company Audi where engineers tried to solve a noise problem in their cars' diesel engine. They found a solution, but one that made the car emit more pollution. To still pass the emissions tests, the noise reduction tool was switched off during the test.

The software was later used in other cars as well. Senior executives covered up evidence, the lawsuit said.

Schneiderman called the strategy a “willful and systematic scheme of cheating by dozens of employees at all levels of the company”.

The lawsuit comes less than a month since VW settled with American consumers and the US government for around €13.2 billion.

Schneiderman's counterpart from Massachusetts, Maura Healey, said that regardless of any settlement, state environment laws were violated.

“With today’s action, we want to make clear to all auto manufacturers that violating laws designed to protect our environment and our public health is unacceptable and will be punished with significant penalties,” said Healey.

Schneiderman added tough words of his own.

“These suits should serve as a siren in every corporate board room, that if any company engages in this type of calculated and systematic illegality, we will bring the full force of the law - and seek the stiffest possible sanctions - to protect our citizens,” he said.

The tough language by the US authorities stands in sharp contrast with the situation in the EU.

Although some countries have carried out investigations, Volkswagen has not yet been criminally charged for the use of cheating software, or defeat devices, which are banned under EU law.

New York attorney general press conference
VW will not publish emissions cheat report

Volkswagen said it would keep its preliminary report into the emissions scandal secret because publishing it would “present an unacceptable risk” to the firm.

Australian consumer watchdog sues Volkswagen

The consumer commission says VW misled its Australian customers and should face a "significant penalty", but the carmaker says the legal case will provide no benefit to consumers.

ECB in ‘bail-out’ of scandal-tainted VW

The ECB has started to “bail out” Germany’s Volkswagen Group by buying its corporate bonds, but other EU-linked banks continue to shun the scandal-tainted firm.

News in Brief

  1. Germany to help nationals cope with energy price spike
  2. Germany wants pipeline from Portugal
  3. Ukraine urges US to sanction all Russian banks
  4. Spain evacuates 294 Afghans
  5. EU sanctions have 'limited' effect of Russian oil production
  6. Donors pledge €1.5bn to Ukraine's war effort
  7. Sweden overtakes France as EU's top power exporter
  8. Italy's far-right star in European charm offensive

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  3. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  6. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting

Latest News

  1. Defying Russian bombs, Ukraine football starts 2022 season
  2. Sweden to extradite man wanted by Turkey
  3. EU must beware Beijing's new charm offensive
  4. Forest fire near Bordeaux forces over 10,000 to flee
  5. Estonia and Latvia sever China club ties
  6. Russian coal embargo kicks in, as EU energy bills surge
  7. Only Western unity can stop Iran hostage-diplomacy
  8. Kosovo PM warns of renewed conflict with Serbia

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us