The United States Department of Justice is presently probing into Volkswagen autos after the German automaker admitted, in September, that they had equipped some of their diesel engines with software that bypasses US emissions tests. A few company heads have already testified on Capitol Hill, confessing that the scandal is only limited to a handful of engineers.
The US Environmental Protection Agency notes that those VW models with the diesel engines can pass an emissions standard test in the laboratory or at the testing station, but have been found to emit nitrogen oxide as much as 40 times the allowable standard, in normal operation. At the same time, VW also admits to using the software in some of its models that have a 3.0L diesel engine.
The company also noted that they used the software—which the industry calls a “defeat device”–in the Audi A3, Volkswagen Beetle, Volkswagen Jetta, Volkswagen Passat, and Volkswagen Golf models released between 2009-2015, which have a 2.0L diesel engine. Data shows this describes approximately 11 million cars around the globe and roughly 482,000 in the United States.
During the hearings, it has come to be known that German newspaper Bild am Sonntag sent an internal letter to Martin Winterkorn, who was the CEO at the time. Sources—who remain anonymous—confirm that the letter does exist, but none could say for certain whether or not Winterkorn—who resigned as CEO as the scandal came to light—had actually seen the warning. All he said, at the time of his resignation, is that this move was the best thing for the company and that he was not aware of any personal wrongdoing.
As such, the automaker now faces as much as $46 billion in penalties from United States regulators. Of course, they might also face civil penalties. With that in mind, VW has hired Washington DC attorney, Kenneth Feinberg, to oversee their claims resolution facility to address customers who may have been affected by the diesel emissions scandal.
Finally, German Transport Minister, Alexander Dobrindt, said—to Bild—VW is going to have to work harder, now, to win back the trust of consumers. “It’s important,” he says, “that those responsible be clearly named and made accountable,” emphasizing that it was only a small group of engineers, but also alluding that Winterkorn could also be partly responsible.