In mid-September, the US Environmental Protection Agency dropped a bomb on Volkswagen Group, the German company that owns Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche, Lamborghini, and other notable car brands. The EPA sent the umbrella company a Notice of Violation, explaining that it discovered “defeat devices” on Volkswagen and Audi diesel passenger cars from 2009 and later.
The defeat devices—actually less a “device” than code on the cars’ electronic control module that detects whether a car is in a lab or on the road—were preventing the cars’ emissions control systems from working properly while the car was operating under normal driving conditions, likely boosting the car’s performance or fuel efficiency rating or both. The EPA said that nearly 500,000 of these diesel cars were caught spewing emissions well in excess of the federal rules, sending the company’s stock into a tailspin.
Just a few days later, Volkswagen announced that 11 million vehicles worldwide were outfitted with the emissions-boosting code, although not all of the cars had the dubious “feature” enabled, according to the company. Still, that sent Volkswagen’s stock into even more of a tailspin, and the company’s CEO was ousted within days. Multiple countries are now investigating Volkswagen for fraud, although in the US, Volkswagen might escape a criminal charge for violating the Clean Air Act (CAA), due to loopholes built into the Act by auto-industry lobbyists, The Wall Street Journal reports.