German automaker Volkswagen pleaded guilty in federal court in Detroit to criminal felony charges relating to its diesel emissions deception. The company was “charged with fraud, obstruction of justice and making false statements about vehicles it imported into the United States, using software designed to cheat on emissions tests during lab testing that helped deceive environmental regulators,” as reported by the New York Times.
VW’s guilty plea comes as part of a criminal settlement arranged with the Department of Justice requiring Volkswagen to pay $4.3 billion in penalties and fines. A separate civil settlement will have the company paying another $15 billion to compensate owners and lessees of 2.0-liter and 3.0-liter engine vehicles throughout the US.
Other huge auto manufacturers have been called to account by the U.S. Justice Department in recent years. In February 2017 Japanese auto parts giant Takata plead guilty to criminal charges relating to faulty auto airbags, paying $1 billion in fines and associated penalties, and three Takata executives are facing criminal charges.
The Justice Department also worked toward a settlement with General Motors concerning defective ignition switches linked to over 100 driver and passenger deaths. GM faced $2 billion civil settlements and government fines, but in that case no executives were criminally charged.
With respect to Volkswagen and the emissions fraud, more than 500 federal lawsuits were filed against the auto manufacturer and consolidated into one matter in San Francisco Federal Court in early 2016 after Volkswagen publicly admitted that it had rigged emissions testing and production in the diesel engines of approximately 11 million vehicles worldwide.
VW programmed software in their diesel vehicles to detect when they were undergoing official emissions testing – only then did the cars turn on their full emission control systems. The controls were then shut off during actual road use, resulting in better fuel economy and performance, but producing toxic pollutants well in excess of U.S. clean air standards.
Lieff Cabraser Volkswagen, Porsche, Audi Emissions Fraud Attorneys
Lieff Cabraser represents Volkswagen (and VW-owned Porsche and Audi) owners in class action lawsuits filed in federal courts in numerous states over the 2015 VW emissions fraud scandal. The case is In Re: Volkswagen “Clean Diesel” Marketing, Sales Practices and Products Liability Litigation, MDL 2672, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).
For information about the compensation options available to you, please read the Court-approved notice carefully, and visit https://www.vwcourtsettlement.com/en/. There you can enter your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and determine if your vehicle is included. You can also access an Online Claims Portal and get individualized information about what the settlements mean for you. The Online Claims Portal will provide the fastest processing of your claim.