volkswagen logoOn Friday, November 20th, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that Volkswagen has admitted to government investigators that in addition to the “clean diesel” vehicles equipped with emissions defeating software, that all of the company’s 3-liter V-6 diesel vehicles manufactured since 2006 were equipped with software designed to defeat US emissions testing systems.

This explosive revelation will add another 85,000 vehicles to the 482,000 vehicles whose software was designed to fraudulently pass emissions testing requirements set by the EPA and state regulatory agencies. Previously, the company had said that the scandal only affected the company’s 2-liter, four-cylinder engines installed on smaller vehicles. The 3-liter V-6 diesel engine was installed within SUV’s and luxury car models including the Volkswagen Touareg, Audi A6, 7, 8, and Q5, and Porsche Cayenne.

Volkswagen’s duplicity resulted in the release of nitrogen oxide emissions that were up to 40 times the legal limit for the 2-liter engines, and up to 9 times the limit on the 3-liter engines. As such, the overall environmental impact of the fraud may take years to fully understand, but it’s becoming clear that it will be significant.

The revelation will add to the EPA’s growing desire to increase the fines and penalties on the company for violating the Clean Air Act. The EPA has the authority to levy fines of up to $37,500 per vehicle. Should they decide to assess the maximum penalty, the latest discovery means the company could be responsible for up to $21 billion dollars in US fines alone.

The company has ceased selling all of the diesel vehicles in question. At the present time it is unclear whether the scandal will grow to include the company’s gasoline engines as well. For now, the company is holding firm in their position that the scandal only affects diesel vehicles.

Understanding the Dupe

The fraud begins with the EPA’s testing process. The standard testing process involves placing a vehicle upon rollers, then simulating 7.5 miles of urban driving performance. The first 8 minutes of the test pushes the vehicle to highway driving speeds and collects data on the vehicle’s emissions at that speed. The second part of the test slows the vehicle to conditions similar to stop-and-go traffic.

There are additional tests as well that can vary from state to state, and municipality to municipality. These include tests that simulate aggressive driving, hot weather conditions, whether a driver is using AC, even cold and hot start tests. These vary depending on the conditions a driver can expect to face within a specific area.

Volkswagen collected these standards and developed software that was designed to detect the specific test that was being conducted. Using variables included within the software, the vehicle’s computers were able to adjust engine operation to minimize emissions during these testing cycles. Once the test was complete, the computers would then recalibrate the engine to run at normal operating levels which delivered the performance advertised to consumers…but emitted nitrogen oxide pollution that was many times greater than the legal limits.

Beware of Mea Culpa’s

The company is attempting a series of damage control measures that the company hopes will preserve some semblance of their reputation. This month the company has rolled out offers including $500 Visa cards, $500 maintenance and repair vouchers, and even $2,000 incentives to purchase new vehicles. However, the catch is that by accepting these offers, beneficiaries are being required to sign papers that include arbitration clauses.

These arbitration clauses would prevent owners who accept these offers from participating in any of the class action lawsuits that are being filed around the world. Further, these clauses prevent vehicle owners from filing their own lawsuits. As such, vehicle owners are strongly cautioned to speak with their VW diesel recall attorney prior to accepting any offers from the company.

VW Diesel Recall Details Emerge But Remain Unclear

The company has submitted their first recall proposals to the EPA and the California Air Resources Board. The details of the proposal have not been released and are currently under review. The EPA and CARB have 20 business days to respond to the proposal which means that it could be mid-December before these details become public.

Concerns Raised Over Long Term Health Consequences

In addition to fines, lawsuits, and the pending VW diesel recall, environmental advocacy groups and the American Lung Association are requesting that the company create mitigation funds to address the excess smog Volkswagen’s vehicles produced. The Greenlining Institute based in Berkeley, CA wants to use these funds to promote electric vehicles and charging stations, while the American Lung Association hopes to use these funds to assist victims suffering from pollution related health conditions. These funds may be allocated down the road and there is speculation that the government could be planning to use a portion of the money collected in fines to create these types of funds.

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