The Environmental Protection Agency on Friday said Volkswagen sold nearly half a million diesel cars with software intentionally designed to bypass standards for air pollution.
The allegations, which involve an estimated 482,000 4-cylinder Volkswagen and Audi diesel passenger cars sold in the United States since 2009, could result in up to $18 billion in fines, or $37,500 for each vehicle, Cynthia Giles, the agency's assistant administrator for enforcement, told a conference call with journalists.
"We intend to hold VW responsible -- there is no recall in effect now," Janet McCabe, the acting assistant administrator of the EPA's office of air and radiation, said on the call.
The software was created to hide the cars' emissions of the pollutant nitrogen oxide, which contribute to ozone and smog, both of which are tied to health troubles including asthma attacks and other respiratory diseases. "Using a defeat device in cars to evade clean air standards is illegal and a threat to public health," Giles said in a statement.
California is also investigating the claims.
"It is incumbent upon Volkswagen to initiate the process that will fix the cars' emissions systems," the EPA said in a press release. "Car owners should know that although these vehicles have emissions exceeding standards, these violations do not present a safety hazard and the cars remain legal to drive and resell. Owners of cars of these models and years do not need to take any action at this time."
According to the EPA, the affected diesel models are:
- Jetta (Model Years 2009 - 2015)
- Beetle (Model Years 2009 - 2015)
- Audi A3 (Model Years 2009 - 2015)
- Golf (Model Years 2009 - 2015)
- Passat (Model Years 2014-2015)
"VW is cooperating with the investigation; we are unable to comment further at this time," Jeannine Ginivan, a spokesperson for Volkswagen emailed.