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Opinion
Leonid Bershidsky

A Lawsuit So Big, Maybe VW Should Just Leave the U.S.

The government's seeking $46 billion in damages, disproportionate to the crime.
No longer welcome.

No longer welcome.

Photographer: Ulrich Baumgarten/Getty Images
Corrected

The U.S. government's lawsuit against Volkswagen threatens the German automaker with such heavy penalties that, in hindsight, it may not have been worth it for VW to be present in the U.S. market at all.

The lawsuit describes known facts. VW installed special software in approximately 580,000 cars sold in the U.S. that mitigated the level of nitrogen oxide (NOx) emission during tests but stopped doing so on the road, and it tried to hide the ploy from the authorities. The carmaker has admitted as much. The surprise is the amount of money the U.S. Department of Justice has demanded for the violations -- a potential fine of up to $46 billion.