Volkswagen Probed by States Over Pollution Cheating

VW Diesel Scandal Widens as CEO Heads for Board Showdown
  • New York, Connecticut among states involved in investigations
  • Probes into auto-maker follow emissions testing admissions

The probes of Volkswagen AG’s technology to cheat air pollution tests have widened to include New York and Connecticut among other U.S. states, adding to investigations of the German automaker by federal investigators and a growing list of countries.

The FBI in Detroit is handling a U.S. criminal investigation of Volkswagen, a person familiar with the matter said. Environmental Protection Agency investigators in Michigan had already been probing the carmaker for allegedly cheating on U.S. air pollution tests, said the person, who requested anonymity because the matter isn’t public.

Wolfsburg, Germany-based Volkswagen admitted that it used “defeat device” software to beat emissions tests in labs. The diesel vehicles spewed as much as 40 times the legal limit of pollutants when they were on the road, the EPA alleges. Volkswagen said it’s cooperating with U.S. officials.

The matter may cost Volkswagen $18 billion in penalties from the EPA, based on a maximum $37,500 violation for each of almost half a million diesel versions of the VW Jetta, Golf, Beetle and Passat and the Audi A3. States, which also have emission-testing standards, may impose more fines while the federal government may push for jail terms for those responsible.

EPA, California

The EPA and the California Air Resources Board opened an investigation into Volkswagen in May 2014, according to letters published Sept. 18. The California agency’s tests confirmed that nitrogen oxide emissions violated state as well as U.S. laws during real-world tests, even though they passed in the laboratory. The agency shared those findings with Volkswagen and the EPA on July 8.

VW admitted to having used a sophisticated software algorithm that detected when a vehicle was undergoing emission testing, according to the EPA, after regulators indicated the automaker’s 2016 models wouldn’t be certified unless the questions about real-world tailpipe pollution were resolved.

Matt Mittenthal, a spokesman for New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, said in an e-mail today that he could confirm New York is part of a multistate group investigating Volkswagen but was unable to say which other states were part of the probe.

Connecticut is investigating separately, said Jaclyn Falkowski, a spokeswoman for that state’s attorney general, George Jepsen.

‘Close Look’

“We are concerned about the situation and are taking a close look at the information that is available,” Falkowski said in an e-mail.

Kristin Ford, a spokeswoman for California Attorney General Kamala Harris, said she couldn’t comment on any potential or current investigations to protect their integrity.

The U.S. Justice Department has also begun a criminal probe, according to officials who spoke on a condition of anonymity.

The German government opened its own probe on Tuesday. Environment Canada also started an investigation, promising unspecified “enforcement action” if the carmaker cheated in that country.

(Earlier versions of this story corrected the spelling of Volkswagen in the first paragraph and a statement that Connecticut is part of the multistate group in the eighth paragraph.)

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