Corporate Law

EPA orders Volkswagen recall; vehicles were designed to trick emission tests, says agency

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The Environmental Protection Agency has ordered the recall of nearly 500,000 Volkswagen vehicles, saying that they were programmed with a “defeat device” that turned on full emissions controls only when the car is being tested.

With the full controls turned off for normal driving, the EPA says, the Volkswagen vehicles pollute more heavily than the company claims and can spew as much as 40 times the allowed amount of pollutants. The recall also affects 4-cylinder Audis, and the model years 2009 to 2015, reports the New York Times (reg. req.).

What the EPA described as a sophisticated software algorithm built into the vehicles is able to detect when they are getting emissions tests and turn on extra controls at that time, explains Bloomberg.

“Using a defeat device in cars to evade clean air standards is illegal and a threat to public health,” said Cynthia Giles, who serves as the EPA’s assistant administrator for enforcement. “EPA is committed to making sure that all automakers play by the same rules.”

Per-vehicle penalties of as much as $37,500 could be imposed, for a maximum fine of some $18 billion on all 482,000 vehicles involved, she said Friday.

Volkswagen said in a written statement that the company is cooperating, but declined further comment.

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