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Volkswagen Emissions Cheat Software Also Installed in Toureg, Porsche, Audi Diesel Vehicles: EPA

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Federal investigators indicate that an additional 10,000 Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche diesel vehicles were sold with emissions cheat software, which allowed the high-end sedans and SUVs to release dangerously high levels of pollutants while they were marketed as environmentally friendly. 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a second notice of violation (NOV) of the Clean Air Act to Volkswagen AG, Audi AG, and Volkswagen Group of America, Inc. on Monday, which also targets Porsche AG and Porsche Cars North America for the first time as well.

According to the NOV, the 2014 VW Touareg, the 2015 Porsche Cayenne, and the 2016 Audi A6 Quatro, A8, A8L, and Q5, were all equipped with 3.0 liter diesel engines that have “defeat device” software designed to allow the car to pass emissions tests.

The emissions cheat software detects when the vehicles are being tested and artificially lowers pollutants released. However, once the testing is over, the EPA indicates that the diesel vehicles release up to nine times the amount of nitrogen oxide (NOx) allowed by Clean Air Act emission standards.

“VW has once again failed its obligation to comply with the law that protects clean air for all Americans,” Cynthia Giles, Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance at the EPA, said in a press release. “All companies should be playing by the same rules. EPA, with our state, and federal partners, will continue to investigate these serious matters, to secure the benefits of the Clean Air Act, ensure a level playing field for responsible businesses, and to ensure consumers get the environmental performance they expect.”

Last month, it was discovered that smaller Volkswagen and Audi “Clean Diesel” vehicles sold in recent years had similar software installed, leading to a recall for VW Beetle, VW Golf, VW Jetta, VW Passat and Audi A3 vehicles sold in various model years between 2009 and 2015. Almost 500,000 of the originally recalled vehicles were sold in the United States, and this latest violation adds about 10,000 more cars to the list.

Volkswagen marketed the vehicles as “clean diesel”, which were promoted as being better for the environment and providing better gas mileage. However, the statements appear to be part of a major fraud on consumers who were trying to be more environmentally friendly, and could have devastating long-term consequences on the overall health of Americans.

After the revelation, and Volkswagen’s admission to the existence of the software in nearly 500,000 vehicles sold in the U.S., and 11 million sold worldwide, the EPA began investigating other cars claiming to use “clean diesel” technology for the defeat devices, leading to the discovery of these additional affected vehicles.

“When the vehicle senses that it is undergoing a federal emissions test procedure, it operates in a low NOx ‘temperature conditioning’ mode. Under that mode, the vehicle meets emission standards,” the EPA NOV explains. “At exactly one second after the completion of the initial phases of the standard test procedure, the vehicle immediately changes a number of operating parameters that increase NOx emissions and indicates in the software that it is transitioning to ‘normal mode,’ where emissions of NOx increase up to nine times the EPA standard, depending on the vehicle and type of driving conditions.”

Still Road Legal

The EPA said it is incumbent upon Volkswagen to fix the vehicles, however noted that it is not illegal to drive or sell them and said they do not present a safety hazard. However, the agency noted that NOx pollution contributes to ground-level ozone and fine particulate matter pollution, which can cause a range of serious health effects such as asthma attacks and other respiratory problems.

Late last month, a study was published in the medical journal Environmental Research Letters, which estimated that the additional pollution released by Volkswagen diesel vehicles installed with the defeat device software likely contributed to at least 59 deaths in the U.S.

The financial costs associated with health effects and other factors caused by the excess pollution from the Volkswagen TDI diesel vehicles likely cost the U.S. economy $450 million, according to the researchers.

The EPA has said that Volkswagen could face as much as $18 billion in fines for violating Clean Air Act emissions testing laws. In addition, a growing number of Volkswagen emissions cheat lawsuits have been filed seeking compensation for vehicle owners who paid a premium for the “Clean Diesel” cars and now face substantial drops in resale value. Many vehicle owners also allege that Volkswagen should be forced to buyback the vehicles outright, would cost the automaker billions more.

As the lawsuits continues to mount, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation will hear oral arguments on December 3 about whether to centralize the claims before one federal judge for coordinated pretrial proceedings, as part of an MDL or multidistrict litigation.

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Image via Vytautas Kielaitis / Shutterstock.com

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