A short time ago, Volkswagen executives in Germany were warned about travel to the United States. Doing so could result in arrest for criminal charges stemming from the company’s massive defrauding of the U.S. government.
Perhaps Oliver Schmidt, the former head of VW’s environmental engineering office in charge of communicating with U.S. regulators, didn’t get the memo.
The FBI pounced when Schmidt was in Miami, arresting him to face criminal charges over doctored diesel engines in more than 500,000 cars, which emitted up to 40 times the limit for nitrogen oxide under U.S. pollution standards.
Volkswagen has pleaded guilty to three felony charges and now the EPA has accused another automaker of a similar cheating scheme.
Volkswagen will pay a total of $4.3 billion to settle with U.S. federal agencies. That figure includes $2.8 billion in criminal fines resulting from a conspiracy to defraud the United States in violation of the Clean Air Act and obstruction of justice for destroying documents and making false statements about emissions compliance upon importing affected cars into the U.S.
Another $1.45 billion settles civil violations with the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Those fines are in addition to the costs associated with buying back or repairing the vehicles involved in the scandal.
Now another automaker is in the crosshairs:
The EPA has accused Fiat Chrysler Automobiles of using software that allowed excess diesel emissions in just over 104,000 U.S. pickups and SUVs sold since 2014.
The EPA and California Air Resources Board told the automaker they believe its auxiliary emissions control software allowed vehicles to generate excess pollution in violation of the law.
FCA’s only response so far is to express disappointment in the accusation along with the promise to work with the incoming administration to assure that all vehicles meet U.S. regulatory requirements.
We don’t know the full extent of any wrongdoing by FCA or even if the company did indeed break any laws. All we have right now is an accusation that hasn’t been fully denied.
Laura MacCleery, Vice President of Policy and Mobilization for Consumer Reports, said in an e-mail,
We thank the EPA and the state of California for notifying the public, but there is much more work to be done here. The government must fully investigate Fiat Chrysler and hold it accountable if it illegally deceived consumers. Fiat Chrysler owes it to its customers and the public to immediately come clean about any wrongdoing. If the allegations are true, the company must step up and tell people how it plans to make customers whole and repair the damage to the environment.
Would you continue to buy from FCA if it cheated emissions laws?