The US government has accused Volkswagen of using software to duck emissions testing for certain air pollutants on nearly half a million of its cars.
The German manufacturer was slapped with a notice of violation (NOV) of the Clean Air Act from the Environmental Protection Agency on Friday and ordered to fix its emissions systems at its own cost.
The EPA has alleged that four-cylinder VW and Audi diesel vehicles sold by the company in the United States since 2008 came loaded with software that bypassed the watchdog's air standards.
The agency claimed:
A sophisticated software algorithm on certain Volkswagen vehicles detects when the car is undergoing official emissions testing, and turns full emissions controls on only during the test.
The effectiveness of these vehicles’ pollution emissions control devices is greatly reduced during all normal driving situations.
This results in cars that meet emissions standards in the laboratory or testing station, but during normal operation, emit nitrogen oxides, or NOx, at up to 40 times the standard.
The EPA added that VW's software had been defined as a "defeat device", according to the US Clean Air Act, which considers such alleged evasion to be a threat to public health.
“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,” said Air Resources board exec officer Richard Corey.
The VW cars under investigation emit up to 40x the national standard for nitrogen oxide, which is linked to asthma & lung illnesses.— U.S. EPA (@EPA) September 18, 2015
The agency has warned VW that it could face civil penalties and injunctive relief for the alleged violations.
It has also ordered the car maker to recall 482,000 vehicles to fix the emissions systems on its diesel Jetta (2009 to 2015), Beetle (2009 to 2015), Audi A3 (2009 to 2015), Golf (2009 to 2015) and Passat (2014 to 2015) models.
It's understood that Volkswagen has been cooperating with the EPA's investigation, but the manufacturer has declined to comment any further.
Drivers of the affected vehicles were told that the cars remained roadworthy, but that they should expect to hear from VW in the near future about repairs to the emissions systems under the recall. ®