VW Cheated on U.S. Pollution Tests for ‘Clean Diesels’

Volkswagen called them "clean diesels," branding them as the fun-to-drive alternatives to hybrids as it dominated the U.S. market for the engine technology.

Turns out the increasingly eco-conscious buyers of the sporty German cars have been unwittingly pumping smog into the air -- because of software VW installed to cheat on U.S. emissions tests.

The world's largest automaker has admitted selling 482,000 such diesels since 2009, California and U.S. regulators announced Friday. The scandal could cost the company billions of dollars in fines and lawsuit judgments and threatens to stunt the development of all diesel vehicles.

VW's software trick allows the cars to emit up to 40 times the legally allowed amount of nitrogen oxide, environmental officials said. The automaker will have to recall all the vehicles and modify the emissions systems at its own expense, regulators said. Additionally it could face a fine of about $18 billion, or $37,500 per car, federal environmental officials said.

"It's pretty ugly," Kelley Blue Book analyst Karl Brauer said. "Volkswagen has far outstripped everyone else in selling diesel cars. This challenges everything they've been saying about those vehicles."

Nitrogen oxide is among the auto pollutants that put more smog into California's skies, Air Resources Board Executive Officer Richard Corey said.

"Under the hot California sun [nitrogen oxide] cooks and creates ozone and fine particles," Corey said.

Many owners of VW diesels -- who tend to be enthusiasts -- were enraged at being deceived.

"It's just a blatant disregard and intentional manipulation of the system," said Priya Shah, a San Francisco owner of a 2012 VW diesel Jetta station wagon. "Not only lying to the government, but also lying to your consumer. People buy diesel cars from VW because they feel they are clean diesel cars."

Shah said the car is likely to be her last Volkswagen.

Justin Balthrop, of Topanga, has driven four...

Comments are closed.