By on September 21, 2015


The investigation that Volkswagen installed illegal “defeat devices” on its cars to cheat emissions tests will reach the U.S. Department of Justice, Bloomberg (via Automotive News) reported.

Sources within the department said they would investigate the automaker, but no details were given.

The Justice Department recently suspended prosecution of General Motors for covering up a faulty ignition switch that was linked to 124 deaths. It’s unclear what, if any charges, could be brought against Volkswagen for the illegal emissions, however the Justice Department charged GM with wire fraud violations in conjunction with its ignition switch coverup.

If charged, Volkswagen would be the latest automaker to feel the government’s wrath in a substantially changing relationship between U.S. authorities and carmakers.

The government fined GM $900 million for their botched recall, Toyota was fined $1.2 billion for unintended acceleration in its cars and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles was fined $105 million for its part in delaying recalls of its cars.

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53 Comments on “Volkswagen Facing Criminal Charges in Emissions Probe...”

  • avatar

    The regulations required that emissions were within the required limits “at the time of testing”.

    So a Clintonesque reading of the law could indicate VW may not have broken the law, just skirted around it. A jury may not buy it but a judge, looking at the law as written, might.

    • 0 avatar

      “Clintonesque”???????? So VW just shot their wad on her blouse and not down her…….

      Back on topic of gaming testing:

      The law says it must meet certain standards during testing.

      Motorcycle companies used to be notorious for this ploy. They knew testing was done over narrow RPM ranges so the bikes were extremely lean at those RPM. Some even had throttle stops and other devices in place to alter carb opening.

      Computerized systems would make it relatively easy to game tests. That is a big reason why we see turbocharged small displacement engines. They test well but tend to deliver same or worse mpg/emissions than comparably larger displacement engines.

      (Disclaimer – I’m not condoning their actions. It just happens to be common practice.)

    • 0 avatar

      A la Clinton: it depends on what your definition of emits is.

      Or to put it another way “I did not have any emissions while connecting with that device.”

      Just remember, if you are afraid of electing another Bush because you don’t want another Bush in the White House, that if you elect another Clinton, you will get more of that kind of moral hairsplitting and verbal legerdemain being emitted from the top down, a new incarnation and new meaning of trickle down.

      If you think HRC is any less duplicitous than WJC was, you will be in for a rude surprise if you are forced to watch her in action as the Command in Chief.

      But this is the irony, that in the end, the legacy of the Clinton political machine will be the idea that Clintonesque means cleverly lying to the public.

      • 0 avatar

        VolandoBajo – Politicians, big business or “Big Anything” base everything on legal or illegal rather than right or wrong or moral/immoral or good/bad. To them grey areas are to be exploited. To them something is good or right or moral only when it gives them an advantage.

        I don’t know why they let lawyers any where near anything resembling political office.

      • 0 avatar

        I lived under Clinton and under Bush and I will take Clinton 10 times out of 10 over Bush.

      • 0 avatar

        I’m certainly no fan of the Clintons but they did far less damage to the country than the Cheney, er, Bush administration (lost thousands of lives, will have spent several TRILLION when it is all said and done).

        And even to this day, Cheney is still LYING about Iraq/Saddam’s supposed ties to the 9/11 highjackers.

    • 0 avatar

      It used to be that the judicial branch would interpret the intent of the law. If that were still the case, VW would clearly be in violation.

      In the last few decades, we’ve moved toward the judicial branch interpreting the letter of the law. This has resulted in much more complex laws, significant violation of the intent of the law, conflicting laws, and lots more money to lawyers. In that case, VW would clearly be….who the hell knows?

      • 0 avatar

        You see, the general public can only be assumed to understand the letter of the law, it’s only fair to follow the letter of the law.

        The so called “intent” of the law are not really rule of law, but rule of people. The real meaning is thus not well published as a law.

        If there is a loop hole in the letters of the law, just reword it better for next time, so that THE LETTER OF THE LAW = THE INTENT OF THE LAW.

    • 0 avatar

      Bernie Sanders 2016! Because socialism just works.

  • avatar

    My wife has accused me of illegal emissions on numerous occasions. I’m still at large and no criminal charges have been filed at this time. I suspect the same outcome in this case, seeing as how it’s resulted in the same degree of quantifiable damage to public health.

  • avatar

    So just for arguments sake, what was GMs punishment for the old 455 Super Duty Pontiac V8s that would run clean and legal for the first X min of operation and then went non-compliant (and more powerful)?

  • avatar

    VW should be fined the maximum 18 billion USD, be forced to buy back all affected vehicles at full retail price, compensate owners to the tune of a brand new vehicle gratis, and VW should be forced to hire the 15 GM ex-employees who were fired (sacrificial lambs) by Mary Barra.

    • 0 avatar

      Perhaps in exchange for keeping Chattanooga open, some political contributions and opening a new data center with those world famous high paying jobs, VW will get slapped about the face and neck with a fine, but nothing close to what it might have been without the palm greasing.

  • avatar

    The US Government probably paid hundreds of millions of dollars in federal tax credits to people that purchased certain TDIs with the understanding that they were cleaner than traditional IC Engines.

    This essentially made the TDI more attractive thanks to our tax money but didn’t actually improve emissions.

    This is not a minor offense.

    • 0 avatar

      Wow, good catch, I forgot all about the $1500 credit I got when I bought my Jetta in ’09!

      Realistically though, VWoA is a sales organization. I would be very surprised if anyone in the USA knew anything about this cheat since no one involved with US sales had a need to know. The DoJ investigation will require cooperation from VAG executives, and prosecution will depend on Germany’s willingness to extradite.

      In other news, it was revealed today that the e-Golf odometer registers miles at 3960 feet, thus falsely inflating range by 33%..

      • 0 avatar

        Well, suppose that VW/Germany is not willing to cooperate, the US still have plenty of cards to play. For example, suspend all VW sales before VW decides to cooperate. Even if VW decides to give up selling VW branded cars in the US, can they give up all the Audi and Porsche sales? Probably not.

  • avatar
    Jeff Waingrow

    I’m pretty sure Donald Trump could fix this whole mess.

  • avatar

    “Sources within the department said they would investigate the automaker, but no details were given…It’s unclear what, if any charges, could be brought against Volkswagen for the illegal emissions”

    This does not match the tone of the article title, “VW Facing Criminal Charges” – which implies something imminent and definite. When in fact, the issue hasn’t even reached the DOJ yet “(The investigation… will reach the U.S. Department of Justice.”).

    I’m not usually one to go around making clickbait accusations, but…

    • 0 avatar

      No need to think about apologizing. Sensationalist subject titles are all the rage these days. Until the backlash to them becomes loud enough so this “questionable” activity is shelved again for some years….

  • avatar

    “…changing relationship between U.S. authorities and carmakers.”

    Who are these “authorities” we keep hearing about whenever discussions about crime come up?

    I see government employees – human beings, and as such they wield Power, not Authority.

  • avatar

    This one could be fairly big. If it goes back to 2008 I remember that being the year new diesel standards came out for cars right? Not only might the Federal government have an emissions claim, a tax credit claim (as pointed out above), but couldn’t other manufacturers sue VW for unfair marking practices? Several diesel projects were on line back then to possible come out and were shelved between the recession and high emission standards. If a company could show VW gained market share (okay that might end up being the joke of it all), I would think there would be some grounds for lawsuit. I’m not lawyer though, but I sell cars for a living, so I’m close in the hearts and minds of the public!

  • avatar

    ABC News

    BERLIN — Sep 21, 2015, 7:15 PM ET

    “Volkswagen has now admitted that it intentionally installed software programmed to switch engines to a cleaner mode during official emissions testing. The software then switches off again, enabling cars to drive more powerfully on the road while emitting as much as 40 times the legal pollution limit.”

  • avatar

    Bloomberg, a non-automotive site, had an nice, well-written editorial on the events.

    Jalopnik had a great summary as well. Where is TTAC, other than a few paragraphs and an open forum. This is a big, big deal!!!! If it isn’t, well, then at least tell us why. Tell us something insightful!!

  • avatar

    It’s like a damn religion with the VW TDI faithful. It’s not that they annoy or anything, but this VW scandal is too similar to the televangelists that have gone down in flames, when everyone in their church BELIEVED in them.

  • avatar

    My prediction – no one serves any time.

  • avatar
    Sam Vimes

    So, most importantly, what impact will this have on the sale price of that sweeeeeet 2016 GTI I desperately want on my driveway? A few weeks of bad press, then cratering sales across the brand with hungry dealers and manuf. cash running off the hood like a melting popsicle in August? Too much to ask for?

  • avatar

    More foreign car brands are suspected of using tricks to fool formal testing. Yahoo Auto says: “While the cars passed the regulated test cycle, almost all spewed more NOx than allowed in real-world driving, with three—one each from Volvo, Renault and Hyundai—belching far more than any other models. The data, the researchers say, pointed to a “serious compliance problem” with European diesels.”

    One can already say that the outcome will be no less than a disaster for all automakers that cheated. To begin with, consequences will not be limited to the U.S. They can not only face hefty fines, perhaps even criminal charges and jail time, but they will also have to compensate diesel car owners for considerable performance and fuel economy loss after the software is taken out AND value depreciation of the cars. This can run into the tens of billions.

  • avatar

    so gm came out with a pat on the shoulder for killing hundreds of ppl with defective ingition swithches. and vw criminalized for cheating a test…..
    free market!!

    • 0 avatar

      No, both are in trouble for lying to regulators. VW, frankly, lied harder.

      For the record, that was Toyota’s sin, too.

      Had VW fessed up and patched things early, they would have been fine and the recall would have been a few million dollars of billable time and some restated window stickers, much like the mileage-claims suits that hit Ford and Hyundai. What they did do was double or triple down on the lie until they were threatened with decertification and stop-sale orders.

    • 0 avatar

      @hawox Not so much “free market!!” as the fact that GM has been “made” as a member of the US Govt “borgata”, whereas VW has never been forgiven for making all those peoples wagons and hippie buses that put so many rebels and counterculture types “On the Road”, again.

      That, and the government doesn’t care as much about you killing citizens as it does about you lying to them. Who do you think you are, that you DARE to lie to us, the Great White Fathers in Washington?

      “We’re from Washington, we’re here to help you.”

      On the other hand, as John Gotti was heard to say on a tape played by the government, in an excess of hubris, “The government is a machine. It never runs out of time and it never runs out of money.”

      And to think you could get away with going up against that? How dare you? It is the lying to the government, not just lying to, or killing, the consumers, that is being punished. It is the blatant arrogance of thinking you could get away with getting over on the government. That is the sin, and that is the sin that VW must atone for.

      GM just kept its mouth shut about its switches. It never testified under oath that its switches were fine. It just never said anything about them at all.

      VW, on the other hand, had the audacity to program its products to produce false results and to present those false results to the government, as if the government was too stupid to catch on.

      Never mind that they actually were too stupid to catch on for quite a while. That just rubbed more salt in the wound, and just increases the demand for retributive justice to be extracted from the miscreant VW organization.

      If only VW had figured out a way to get the US government to buy a part of it…then it would have been intra familia, and all would have been forgiven with a slap of the wrist.

      But to be a foreign entity and to try to get over on the US government? Cannot be allowed to get away with that! No way!

      The 6.5 Billion that VW has put away is just a stake in the sand, trying to set an anchor point for discussions about the actual fine. And they are hoping it won’t go that much beyond that number. However, the big boys in DC will likely want to extract a lot more than that.

      Punishment for arrogance, under the guise of protecting the sacred environment, which is worth more than a few actual lives. We are supposed to worship the environment, but a few citizens here and there are just the collateral damage, the cost of doing business. Especially if none of those who died are related to any of the powers that be.

      So yes, in the end, GM will skate, and VW will pay for the sin of hubris, lying to the all-powerful US government.

  • avatar

    What I want to know is what were the variables that were tested, and what were the parameters that determined that a VW was being tested instead of being driven?

    The most obvious might have been stationary wheel position coupled with sustained above idle rpms, but there might be others.

    Just wondering…

    Gee, could that be a QOTD? How can I program my ECU to behave differently when being tested, especially, what is the trigger mechanism for going into being-tested mode?

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