Volkswagen managed to avoid negative press for about 30 seconds, but it’s back in the news as the US Justice Department files a civil lawsuit against the company. The suit was filed on Monday over allegations that Volkswagen cheated emissions testing on over 600,000 diesel cars.
The company violated the Clean Air Act with their cheat that has garnered the name Dieselgate. Yeah, it’s such a big deal they’ve turned it into a “gate” so you know they’re in serious trouble.
The problems with Volkswagen’s diesel vehicles surfaced a few months ago and Vokswagen has been trying to save themselves ever since. Numerous executives have been let go and goodwill offers have been made to appease angry owners, but there’s no saying sorry and walking away when the government has been crossed.
According to Autoblog, assistant attorney general John C. Cruden said, “The United States will pursue all appropriate remedies against Volkswagen to redress the violation of our nation’s clean air laws alleged in the complaint,” with this lawsuit being the first of what could be many. The federal government is taking issue and individual states may do the same depending on which of their laws were broken by Volkswagen.
The problem stems from a software cheat installed in diesel vehicles. The cars were basically rigged so that they’d function one way during emissions tests so they could pass, but then function in a different way on the road. Strong performance on the road only happened because emissions standards were blown right out the tailpipe.
It worked for years, but now that the jig is up, the lawsuits are rolling in. The Department of Justice could seek as much as $3,750 for each component installed to fraudulently pass emissions tests while the EPA is going after Volkswagen with fines as high as $37,500 per car. Yes, they’re looking at fines higher than the cars are even worth. Do the math and that’s roughly $18 billion in penalties.
Other than offering customers a goodwill package as an act of contrition, Volkswagen has yet to offer up a fix for their diesels. Anyone driving one today is polluting the air like it’s 1975. The company says a fix is coming, but has given no hint at what or when the fix will arrive.
They also haven’t announced what they’re going to do to fully compensate customers who were duped. The goodwill package was only an appetizer with something more substantial expected in the coming months. They’ll have to figure out how to appease angry customers and fix their cars while managing federal lawsuits on the side.