All VW, Audi, Porsche Diesels Have Had Illegal Software Since 2009: U.S. Fines May Hit $21.2 Billion

November 23, 2015

Volkswagen's Dieselgate scandal continues its gruesome shock-and-awe assault on the world's headlines. Late last week, the automaker finally admitted that the Environmental Protection Agency was correct when it said that Volkswagen had installed illegal emissions control software on its 3.0-liter diesel engines. 

In fact, in a meeting with EPA officials, representatives from VW and Audi said that none of their 3.0-liter diesel engines have complied with U.S. emissions regulations since 2009. As a result, the tally of U.S. vehicles affected by Dieselgate has now risen to 587,000 -- 482,000 2.0-liter diesels, mostly from the VW brand, and an additional 85,000 3.0-liter diesels, spread among VW, Audi, and Porsche.

The confession marks the conclusion of a slow, 180-degree pivot by Volkswagen. When the EPA first accused Volkswagen of installing cheat software on its 3.0-liters at the beginning of this month, VW reps vehemently denied the charges. Audi remained silent. Only Porsche seemed contrite, issuing a brief statement that said: "We are surprised to learn this information. Until this notice, all of our information was that the Porsche Cayenne Diesel is fully compliant."

(It's worth noting that Porsche has not officially admitted wrongdoing, nor was it part of the EPA meeting last week. However, between the confessions from its siblings, VW and Audi, and the fact that Porsche has stopped selling Cayenne diesels from 2014-2016, the truth is pretty clear.)

However, Volkswagen's 3.0-liter cheat is slightly different from the one that's marred the reputation of its 2.0-liter diesels. While the emissions control software on 2.0-liter vehicles violates most, if not all governmental regulations around the world, the software on 3.0-liter models is legal in other parts of the globe -- including Europe, where most of the company's diesels are registered. The automaker says that it simply failed to disclose the software to U.S. regulators. Oops.

In the U.S., where roughly five percent of Volkswagen's illegal diesels are registered, the automaker currently faces around $18 billion in fines. Following this admission, the sum could rise another $3.2 billion, bringing it ever closer to our very early guesstimate of $25 billion. As other countries begin to weigh in, the sum could rise far, far higher.

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