Volkswagen Facing Criminal Charges in Emissions Probe

Aaron Cole
by Aaron Cole

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.

Join the conversation
6 of 53 comments
  • Sam Vimes Sam Vimes on Sep 21, 2015

    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?

  • Voyager Voyager on Sep 22, 2015

    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.

  • Hawox Hawox on Sep 22, 2015

    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!!

    • See 1 previous
    • VolandoBajo VolandoBajo on Sep 23, 2015

      @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.

  • VolandoBajo VolandoBajo on Sep 23, 2015

    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?