Volkswagen pleads guilty, will pay $4.3 billion in test cheating case
Thiss a result of the company’s long-running scheme to sell approximately 590,000 diesel vehicles in the U.S. by using a defeat device to cheat on emissions tests mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the California Air Resources Board (CARB), and lying and obstructing justice to further the scheme, the Justice Department announced.
In separate civil resolutions of environmental, customs and financial claims, VW has agreed to pay $1.5 billion.
This includes EPA’s claim for civil penalties against VW in connection with VW’s importation and sale of these cars, as well as U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) claims for customs fraud.
In addition, the EPA agreement requires injunctive relief to prevent future violations. The agreements also resolve alleged violations of the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act (FIRREA).
In addition, a federal grand jury in the Eastern District of Michigan returned an indictment today charging six VW executives and employees for their roles in the nearly 10-year conspiracy.
Heinz-Jakob Neusser, Jens Hadler, ichard Dorenkamp, Bernd Gottweis, Oliver Schmidt, and Jürgen Peter, all of Germany, are charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, defraud VW’s U.S. customers and violate the Clean Air Act by making false representations to regulators and the public about the ability of VW’s supposedly “clean diesel” vehicles to comply with U.S. emissions requirements.
The indictment also charges Dorenkamp, Neusser, Schmidt and Peter with Clean Air Act violations and charges Neusser, Gottweis, Schmidt and Peter with wire fraud counts.
This case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Sean F. Cox of the Eastern District of Michigan.
According to the charging documents and statement of facts filed with the court, in 2006, VW engineers began to design a new diesel engine to meet stricter U.S. emissions standards that would take effect by model year 2007.
This new engine would be the cornerstone of a new project to sell diesel vehicles in the United States that would be marketed to buyers as “clean diesel,” a project that was an important strategic goal for VW’s management.
When the co-conspirators realized that they could not design a diesel engine that would both meet the stricter NOx emissions standards and attract sufficient customer demand in the U.S. market, they decided they would use a software function to cheat standard U.S. emissions tests.
VW engineers working under Dorenkamp and Hadler designed and implemented a software to recognize whether a vehicle was undergoing standard U.S. emissions testing on a dynamometer or it was being driven on the road under normal driving conditions.
The software accomplished this by recognizing the standard published drive cycles. Based on these inputs, if the vehicle’s software detected that it was being tested, the vehicle performed in one mode, which satisfied U.S. NOx emissions standards.
If the software detected that the vehicle was not being tested, it operated in a different mode, in which the vehicle’s emissions control systems were reduced substantially, causing the vehicle to emit NOx up to 40 times higher than U.S. standards.
Disagreements over the direction of the project were articulated at a meeting over which Hadler presided, and which Dorenkamp attended.
Hadler authorized Dorenkamp to proceed with the project knowing that only the use of the defeat device software would enable VW diesel vehicles to pass U.S. emissions tests.
Starting with the first model year 2009 of VW’s new “clean diesel” engine through model year 2016, Dorenkamp, Neusser, Hadler and their co-conspirators installed, or caused to be installed, the defeat device software into the vehicles imported and sold in the United States.
In order to sell their “clean diesel” vehicles in the United States, the co-conspirators lied to the EPA about the existence of their test-cheating software, hiding it from the EPA, CARB, VW customers and the U.S. public. Dorenkamp, Neusser, Hadler, Gottweis, Schmidt, Peter and their co-conspirators then marketed, and caused to be marketed, VW diesel vehicles to the U.S. public as “clean diesel” and environmentally-friendly. ■