Oh my God, it’s finally almost over. After a 10-year conspiracy and almost 600,000 rigged diesel cars, VW’s legal battle with the United States is coming to an end. Volkswagen pled guilty last month to conspiracy to commit fraud and the obstruction of justice after it was caught cheating on emissions tests in 2015, and we’ve been eagerly waiting the verdict and subsequent punishment.
Today, a U.S. judge ordered the automaker to observe three years of probation and shell out a $2.8 billion criminal fine. The sum, which Steph Willems has informed me equates to 135,168 VW Golfs — after delivery and rounding up to the closest car — is in addition to the company’s $1.5 billion in civil penalties, $4.7 billion in mandatory anti-pollution initiatives, and $11.2 billion diesel buyback program. (Read More…)
The Trump administration’s current plan for the Environmental Protection Agency budget removes nearly all funding for vehicle emissions testing. Proposed cuts to the EPA’s budget would eliminate 99 percent of the agency’s $48 million in funding for vehicle testing, shouldering automakers with increased fees to split the difference.
However, former head of the EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality Margo Oge is claiming that such a large cut would force the agency into “pretty much shutting down the testing lab” regardless of corporate contributions. (Read More…)
If you’ve felt left out of the Volkswagen diesel affair until now, chin up. You’ll soon be able to purchase your very own piece of automotive scandal history.
The Environmental Protection Agency has approved the sale of 2015 Volkswagen Group vehicles equipped with Generation 3 2.0-liter diesel engines, making this the first time any of the half-million-plus sidelined vehicles have been legally available to customers since the scandal began.
The contrarian’s list of unlikely daily drivers just grew a bit longer. (Read More…)
California has green-lit light-vehicle pollution targets that the Trump administration has placed under review. As expected, the Golden State is going to continue playing hardball over Environmental Protection Agency regulations.
Already critical of the automotive industry for asking the president to reconsider federal guidelines through 2025, the California Air Resources Board hinted that it wouldn’t stray from the emission targets set by the Obama administration in 2012. On Friday, CARB finalized its state emissions rules while setting an updated ordinance on zero-emission vehicles. “We’re going to press on,” said Mary Nichols, head of the board, during last week’s press conference. (Read More…)
Volkswagen’s U.S. diesel woes have consumed most of the oxygen in the room for the past year and a half, but Europe has its own issues with the automaker’s emissions-spewing powerplants.
While owners on the continent haven’t had to hand their vehicle over in exchange for cash, the region’s less-stringent environmental laws still require that VW offer a fix for its rigged diesel engines. Good news for air quality, but bad news — apparently — for drivers. Many owners have discovered the fix turns a perfectly fine (though illegal) vehicle into a nightmare. (Read More…)
The Volkswagen diesel emissions saga has reached a logical legal conclusion. The automaker entered a guilty plea in a Detroit federal courtroom this morning, admitting to a vast, 10-year conspiracy to fool environmental regulators through the use of emissions-cheating defeat devices.
As penance, Volkswagen AG must now pay $4.3 billion in criminal fines and civil penalties. That sum can now be added to the multi-billion U.S. buyback of hundreds of thousands of 2.0- and 3.0-liter diesel vehicles manufactured since 2009. While the penalties would be a bitter pill for any automaker to swallow, it’s a fraction of the fine allowed under federal guidelines.
Had the court pursued it, it might have sparked a brand fire sale down at Volkswagen Group. (Read More…)
The Office of the Inspector General is preparing to conduct preliminary research to determine whether the Environmental Protection Agency’s internal controls are effective at detecting and preventing emissions fraud.
While the EPA has proven itself capable of stopping cheaters in the past, the federal oversight group wants to check in on the National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory in Ann Arbor, Michigan and the Office of Transportation and Air Quality in Washington D.C.
This investigation comes amid the current administration’s proposal of a 25 percent reduction in the EPA’s $8 billion budget, the elimination of almost 3,000 jobs, and the suspension of agency-backed programs and departments — including the environmental justice office. Automakers are also begging President Trump to rollback emissions standards after 2016 ended up being the first year since 2004 that U.S. light vehicles did not exceeded the industry-wide fuel economy targets. Regardless of intent, any appraisal of the EPA’s ability to act effectively will either serve to validate its existence or help rationalize its dismantlement. (Read More…)
The fallout from the Environmental Protection Agency’s call-out of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles over excess EcoDiesel emissions has now landed in the company’s lap. Or, more specifically, in its mailbox.
In a filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission, FCA revealed it’s been hit with subpoenas from state and federal authorities, including the SEC, Reuters reports.
The need for answers comes after the EPA accused the automaker of failing to declare eight auxiliary emissions control devices installed on its 3.0-liter diesel V6, which the regulator claims emits illegally high levels of emissions. That engine found a home in roughly 104,000 Ram 1500s and Jeep Grand Cherokees.
Every automotive manufacturer currently selling cars within the United States has incessantly requested that the government dial back federal fuel economy standards ever since Donald Trump took office. Now, two advocacy groups — Consumers Union and the Consumer Federation of America — have sent a letter to Trump making a case to maintain Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards for the good of average Americans.
Automakers have claimed that higher efficiency targets will increase vehicle cost, making this a battle between two camps, each focused on U.S. wallets: MSRP and MPG. (Read More…)
Politicians from Volkswagen’s home region of Lower Saxony are raising questions over the unanticipated departure of the German automaker’s compliance chief, Christine Hohmann-Dennhardt, saying they have concerns over how the supervisory board handled the matter. There has been a long-standing apprehension among investors and business analysts that VW is too tightly controlled by its founding Porsche-Piech family and incapable of amelioration.
On Wednesday, Deutsche lawmakers called for a formal inquiry on the matter.
Hohmann-Dennhardt was brought aboard very late in 2015 to assist in Volkswagen’s reformation following the diesel emissions cheating scandal. However last month, after only a year on the job, she left abruptly with a sizable pension and gargantuan severance. (Read More…)
Volkswagen AG has announced a new U.S. unit that will manage its hefty court-mandated investments in zero-emission vehicle infrastructure and green awareness programs.
Electrify America LLC, located in Reston, Virginia, is supposed to be entirely separate from Volkswagen Group’s automotive brands and owned as a subsidiary of VW of America. It will oversee $2 billion in initiatives to promote the use of zero emissions vehicles in the U.S. over the next ten years as part of VW’s diesel emissions settlement. (Read More…)
Contrary to the popular mantra, there is a replacement for displacement. The problem is tiny engines that harness technology to boost power output aren’t the greenest things on the road. In fact, the emissions created by small two, three and four-cylinder engines are often out of all proportion to the mills’ Lilliputian displacement.
Volkswagen, realizing it’s staring down the barrel of regulatory non-compliance, has vowed to stop searching for the latest gas- and diesel-powered micro-wonder. Small is out. Normal-sized is in. (Read More…)
President-elect Donald Trump’s pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, said he plans to review the Obama administration’s recent decision to secure fuel efficiency standards through 2025.
Last week, outgoing EPA administrator Gina McCarthy bumped up the timeline for the final determination on the fuel efficiency rule in the hopes of maintaining the Obama administration’s climate legacy.
“It merits review and I would review that,” Pruitt said at yesterday’s Senate confirmation hearing. Later that same day, Pruitt confirmed that he would not permit California to continue operating under its own rules as part of its 2009 advanced clean cars program and zero emission vehicle mandates.
As predicted, California isn’t interested in being told what to do. (Read More…)
It would be fair to suggest that government agencies have held the automotive industry by the testicles with both hands for much of the Obama administration. America’s fuel economy and emissions targets are noble, but have cost manufacturers peace of mind and plenty of money. Enter President-elect Donald Trump, who spent a great deal of his campaign promising to repeal some of those standards and change things for the industry.
Are the current targets too lofty? Most automakers would say yes, but it depends on who you’re asking. However, the odds of Trump rolling back efficiency standards in a meaningful way is on par with us returning to the Bronze Age. While not impossible, it’s incredibly difficult to turn back the tide of progress. Even if the 45th President of the United States did manage to dismantle the EPA, abolish Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) regulations, and convince China to nuke us into the Stone Age, there remains the outside world to consider. (Read More…)
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles started off the week in solid form. It deftly preempted the Detroit auto show by unveiling its futuristic Portal minivan concept at the youthful Consumer Electronics Show a week prior, then dangled a big Mopar tease in front of enthusiasts with its yet-to-be-revealed SRT Hellcat Demon variants of the Dodge Charger and Challenger.
Then, just like that, the Environmental Protection Agency held a media conference and FCA found its legs kicked out from under it. After Thursday’s accusation of emissions violations (via eight undeclared emissions control devices found on 3.0-liter EcoDiesel models), the automaker finds itself playing defense as controversy grows.
As the EPA’s investigation continues, the U.S. Department of Justice has now opened a criminal probe. (Read More…)