Add certain models of Audis and Porsches to the list of cars containing defeat devices installed to allow the cars to pass U.S. emissions tests without sacrificing performance.
EPA has issued a notice of violation (NOV) of the Clean Air Act (CAA) to Volkswagon AG, Audi AG, Volkswagen Group of America Inc., Porsche AG and Porsche Cars North America. These five companies are collectively referred to as Volkswagen (VW).
The NOV alleges that VW developed and installed a defeat device in certain VW, Audi and Porsche light-duty diesel vehicles equipped with 3.0 liter engines for model years (MY) 2014 through 2016 that increases emissions of nitrogen oxide (NOx) up to nine times EPA’s standard.
The vehicles covered by the Nov. 2 NOV are the diesel versions of the 2014 VW Touareg, the 2015 Porsche Cayenne and the 2016 Audi A6 Quattro, A7 Quattro, A8, A8L and Q5. EPA and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) both have initiated investigations based on Volkswagen’s alleged actions. The NOV covers approximately 10,000 diesel passenger cars already sold in the United States since MY 2014.
“VW has once again failed its obligation to comply with the law that protects clean air for all Americans,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for the Office for EPA’s Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “All companies should be playing by the same rules. EPA, with our state and federal partners, will continue to investigate these serious matters, to secure the benefits of the Clean Air Act, ensure a level playing field for responsible businesses, and to ensure consumers get the environmental performance they expect.”
In addition, the NOV covers an unknown volume of 2016 vehicles. These alleged violations are in addition to the NOV issued on September 18 and the ongoing investigation by EPA alleging a defeat device on certain 2.0 liter engines for MY 2009-2015 vehicles.
"On Sept. 25, the California Air Resources Board sent letters to all manufacturers letting them know we would be screening vehicles for potential defeat devices,” said Richard Corey, executive officer of the California Air Resources Board. “Since then ARB, EPA and Environment Canada have continued test programs on additional diesel-powered passenger cars and SUVs. These tests have raised serious concerns about the presence of defeat devices on additional VW, Audi and Porsche vehicles. We are requiring VW Group to address these issues. This is a very serious public health matter.”
On Sept. 25, EPA initiated testing of all 2015 and 2016 light-duty diesel models available in the United States using updated testing procedures specifically designed to detect potential defeat devices. That testing led directly to the alleged violations covered under the most recent NOV. As alleged in the NOV, VW manufactured and installed software in the electronic control module of these vehicles that senses when the vehicle is being tested for compliance with EPA emissions standards. When the vehicle senses that it is undergoing a federal emissions test procedure, it operates in a low NOx “temperature conditioning” mode. Under that mode, the vehicle meets emission standards.
At exactly one second after the completion of the initial phases of the standard test procedure, the vehicle immediately changes a number of operating parameters that increase NOx emissions and indicates in the software that it is transitioning to “normal mode,” where emissions of NOx increase up to nine times the EPA standard, depending on the vehicle and type of driving conditions. In other tests where the vehicle does not experience driving conditions similar to the start of the federal test procedure, the emissions are higher from the start, consistent with “normal mode.”
VW’s software on these vehicles includes one or more Auxiliary Emission Control Devices (AECD) that the company failed to disclose, describe and justify in their applications for certificate of conformity for each model. Every manufacturer must apply to EPA for and be approved for a certificate of conformity for each model, each year otherwise it is illegal to introduce the cars into commerce.
The Clean Air Act requires vehicle manufacturers to certify to EPA that their products will meet applicable federal emission standards to control air pollution, and every vehicle sold in the U.S. must be covered by an EPA-issued certificate of conformity. The Clean Air Act also prohibits manufacturers’ making and selling vehicles equipped with defeat devices that reduce the effectiveness of the emission control system during normal driving conditions. By making and selling vehicles with defeat devices and by selling vehicles with higher levels of air emissions than were certified to EPA, Volkswagen allegedly violated two important provisions of the Clean Air Act.
VW may be liable for civil penalties and injunctive relief for the violations alleged in the NOV. VW will have an opportunity to respond to the allegations contained in the NOV. It is Volkswagen’s responsibility to fix the vehicles’ emissions systems.
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