German carmaker Volkswagen has been ordered to recall as many as 500,000 cars by the U.S. government after the manufacturer was found to violate the Clear Air Act by deploying software in their vehicles that allowed the cars to circumvent and pass emission norms. According to USA Today, several cars made by Volkswagen and its subsidiaries were found to come with software that let them get around emission standards by deliberately lowering emissions when the cars are subject to emission norm tests.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, hundreds of thousands of Volkswagen and Audi diesel-powered cars came with the software and managed to get around emission standard norms. According to EPA’s assistant administrator for enforcement and compliance assurance, the violation by Volkswagen was illegal and was a threat to public health.
“Using a defeat device in cars to evade clean air standards is illegal and a threat to public health. Working closely with the California Air Resources Board, EPA is committed to making sure that all automakers play by the same rules. EPA will continue to investigate these very serious matters,” she said.
According to a notice, a total of 482,000 diesel-powered cars — all of them sold between 2009 and 2015 — were found to be in violation of EPA norms. The car models affected by the recall include the following.
Jetta (model years 2009 – 2015)
Beetle (model years 2009 – 2015)
Audi A3 (model years 2009 – 2015)
Golf (model years 2009 – 2015)
Passat (model years 2014-2015)
Apart from the EPA, the State of California has also decided to issue an In-Use Compliance letter to Volkswagen. Volkswagen is also being investigated by the California Air Resources Board (CARB).
Confirming the news of the violations, CARB executive officer Richard Corey said, “Working with U.S. EPA we are taking this important step to protect public health thanks to the dogged investigations by our laboratory scientists and staff. Our goal is to ensure that the affected cars are brought into compliance, to dig more deeply into the extent and implications of Volkswagen’s efforts to cheat on clean air rules, and to take appropriate further action.”
According to regulators, the Volkswagen cars mentioned in the list above came with a software algorithm that could detect when the vehicle was undergoing official emission tests. During such a test, the cars activate all emission controls that lower the emissions and let the cars easily pass the test. During normal driving conditions, however, the cars revert to a much higher emission mode estimated to be up to 40 times more than what was observed in the emission test mode. The software has been termed a “defeat device,” Reuters reports.
If Volkswagen is found to be violating the Act, it could be penalized heavily. The penalty could go as high as $37,500 per vehicle, which could eventually add up to more than $18 billion for all 482,000 cars that came with the software.
There has been no official reaction from Volkswagen regarding the violations so far.
[Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]