The Obama administration announced today that it was ordering Volkswagen to recall 482,000 cars sold between 2009 and 2015. The EPA alleges that the cars were designed to intentionally mislead smog emissions testing equipment, using special software installed in the cars.
According to the EPA, almost half a million cars were equipped with a device that could detect when it was undergoing an emissions test. And the EPA says that this “defeat device” would only run the car at peak efficiency during these times. Which is to say that when the car wasn’t being smog-tested, it was polluting a lot more than during the tests.
“Using a defeat device in cars to evade clean air standards is illegal and a threat to public health,” Cynthia Giles of the EPA said in a statement. “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.”
California, which has some of the most stringent emissions testing in the country, has issued its own warning to Volkswagen and is reportedly working with the national office of the EPA. According to Newsweek’s back-of-the-napkin calculations, the fines could reach as high as $18 billion.
The New York Time reports that the vehicles include, “the 2009-15 Volkswagen Jetta, 2009–15 Beetle, 2009–15 Golf, 2014-15 Passat and 2009-15 Audi A3.” All are diesel engine passenger cars.
“Working with US EPA we are taking this important step to protect public health thanks to the dogged investigations by our laboratory scientists and staff,” said Air Resources Board Executive Officer Richard Corey in a statement. “Our goal now 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.”
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images