January 5, 2016 — The Justice Department has filed a federal lawsuit (PDF) against Volkswagen (VW), seeking billions of dollars in penalties for selling nearly 600,000 cars with illegal software designed to cheat on emissions tests.
Prosecutors announced yesterday that the lawsuit was filed in Detroit against VW, Audi, and Porsche for violations of the Clean Air Act.
Reuters reports that VW could face a maximum fine of $48 billion, but the actual penalty will probably be much lower.
In September, VW admitted installing “defeat devices” on certain 2.0-liter and 3.0-liter diesel engines. The device senses when the car is being tested for emissions and temporarily reduces pollution. On the road, the cars emit up to 40X the legal limit of nitrogen oxide (NOx).
NOx is a toxic gas that can cause breathing problems, especially for people with risk-factors for lung disease. According to the Justice Department:
“These pollutants are linked with asthma and other serious respiratory illnesses. Exposure to ozone and particulate matter is also associated with premature death due to respiratory-related or cardiovascular-related effects.”
Affected 2.0 liter diesel models and model years include:
- Jetta (2009-2015)
- Jetta Sportwagen (2009-2014)
- Beetle (2013-2015)
- Beetle Convertible (2013-2015)
- Audi A3 (2010-2015)
- Golf (2010-2015)
- Golf Sportwagen (2015)
- Passat (2012-2015)
Affected 3.0 liter diesel models and model years include:
- Volkswagen Touareg (2009-2016)
- Porsche Cayenne (2013-2016)
- Audi A6 Quattro (2014-2016)
- Audi A7 Quattro (2014-2016)
- Audi A8 (2014 – 2016)
- Audi A8L (2014-2016)
- Audi Q5 (2014-2016)
- Audi Q7 (2009-2015)