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Volkswagen (VW), the largest car-maker in the world, is accused of using an illegal “defeat device” software to cheat emissions standards tests, while marketing the cars as environmentally-friendly and charging consumers a premium.

UPDATE: VW Offers Buy-Back Plus Up to $7K for Owners

June 24, 2016 — As part of a $10 billion settlement, VW will pay the fair-market value of the cars before the scandal broke in September 2015, plus $1,000 to $7,000 in compensation depending on factors like the age of the car. Click here to read more.

April 21, 2016 — VW has offered $5,000 to each affected customer in a proposed settlement with regulatory agencies for cheating diesel emissions tests in the United States. The company will fix or buy back nearly 500,000 2.0-liter TDI “Clean Diesel” cars that were sold with sophisticated software designed to cheat emissions tests in the United States. Click here to read more.

January 14, 2016 — Volkswagen’s proposal to fix thousands of cars that cheat emissions testing by installing new catalytic converters has been rejected by the California Air Resources Board. Other options include updating the software or buying back the vehicles. Click here to read more.

January 5, 2016 — The Justice Department filed a federal lawsuit (PDF) against VW seeking up to $48 billion in penalties for violating environmental laws. Click here to read more.

December 9, 2015 — Federal judges havs centralized over 500 lawsuits involving illegal Volkswagen emissions software in Multi-District Litigation (MDL No. 2672) in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California under Judge Charles R. Breyer. Click here to read more.

December 8, 2015 — Just in time for the holiday season, Volkswagen of America has offered $1,000 gift cards to nearly 500,000 drivers of diesel vehicles with illegal software designed to cheat emissions, but still no fix for the cars. Click here to read more.

December 2, 2015 — VW and the Justice Department are asking federal judges to centralize more than 350 lawsuits involving illegal emissions-cheating software in one federal court in Detroit. Click here to read more.

November 4, 2015 — VW has admitted using illegal software to cheat carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions tests on 800,000 cars, including some gas engines. Click here to read more.

October 15, 2015 — Under pressure from Germany, VW has announced plans to recall 8.5 million TDI diesel cars in the 28-nation European Union. Click here to read more.

October 9, 2015 — Texas state and city officials have filed several lawsuits against VW for violating consumer protection and clean-air laws by selling cars that cheat emissions tests. Click here to read more.

October 7, 2015 — Starting in January, VW will recall diesel cars in Europe to retrofit engines and remove illegal software that cheats emissions tests. The timeline in the U.S. is still uncertain. Click here to read more.

October 6, 2015 — The investigation into a massive emissions cheating scandal embroiling Volkswagen (VW) has zeroed in on two engineers. Click here to read more.

October 2, 2015 — The EPA will begin testing vehicle emissions on the road. Meanwhile, leaked documents indicate that Bosch created the “defeat device” software and warned VW that using it to cheat emissions would be illegal. Click here to read more.

September 29, 2015 — VW has announced plans to remove illegal “defeat device” software on up to 11 million cars in Europe. Click here to read more.

September 25, 2015 — More auto-makers have been sucked into the VW emissions crisis after investigators found higher emissions on the road than during testing. Click here to read more.

September 24, 2015 — U.S. government agencies confronted Volkswagen about emissions problems last year. In April 2015, the company warned consumers about a software “glitch” and asked them to get their cars repaired. Click here to read more.

What is the problem?

In September 2015, Volkswagen admitted intentionally installing a “defeat device” to cheat emissions testing on 11 million diesel vehicles worldwide, including about 482,000 sold in the United States. Cars affected by the problem were sold by Volkswagen and Audi from 2009-2015, powered by a 2.0-liter or 3.0-liter turbocharged diesel engine (“TDI”).

Affected 2.0 liter diesel models and model years include:

  • Jetta (2009-2015)
  • Jetta Sportwagen (2009-2014)
  • Beetle (2013-2015)
  • Beetle Convertible (2013-2015)
  • Audi A3 (2010-2015)
  • Golf (2010-2015)
  • Golf Sportwagen (2015)
  • Passat (2012-2015)

Affected 3.0 liter diesel models and model years include:

  • Volkswagen Touareg (2009-2016)
  • Porsche Cayenne (2013-2016)
  • Audi A6 Quattro (2014-2016)
  • Audi A7 Quattro (2014-2016)
  • Audi A8 (2014 – 2016)
  • Audi A8L (2014-2016)
  • Audi Q5 (2014-2016)
  • Audi Q7 (2009-2015)

VW Emissions Fraud

During testing, the engines reduce emissions to meet standards. But on the road, the cars emit up to 40X more nitrogen oxide than allowed, according to a statement from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The EPA received a tip from researchers at West Virginia University who found the “sophisticated software algorithm” to block emissions when the car was being tested — using steering angle, speed, engine run times, and atmospheric pressure.

Bad news for owners is that the quickest fix — simply updating the software — will likely reduce performance because there is a trade-off between emissions and efficiency.

Drivers Paid More for “CleanDiesel” – Emits Toxic Nitric Oxide

The cars were called “CleanDiesel” and marketed to environmentally-conscious consumers. The selling point is that diesel engines have better fuel-economy and lower carbon emissions compared to standard gasoline engines.

However, diesel engines emit far more nitrogen oxide (NOx), a toxic gas that can cause health problems, including airway inflammation and asthma. According to the Justice Department:

“These pollutants are linked with asthma and other serious respiratory illnesses. Exposure to ozone and particulate matter is also associated with premature death due to respiratory-related or cardiovascular-related effects.”

Drivers of the recalled vehicles are angry because they paid more for diesel-engine vehicles after being misled — ranging from $1,000 on Golfs to $7,000 on top-level Passat models.

VW now faces up to $18 billion in fines and a criminal investigation by the Justice Department. Chief executive Martin Winterkorn resigned on September 23 and took responsibility for the cheating scandal.

VW Lawsuit: “Every Reason That I Bought the Car Was Based on a Lie”

ABC News talked to Ari Levin, a man from New York who owns a 2010 turbo-charged diesel Volkswagen Jetta. He has filed a class action lawsuit and says, “Every reason that I bought the car was based on a lie.” Reuters reports that 25 class action lawsuits have been filed less than 4 days after the EPA announcement.

How Many Vehicles Are Affected?

VW says about 11 million cars were fitted with Type EA 189 engines designed to cheat emissions tests. The deceptive software was introduced in 2009 model-year vehicles. At least 10 million of the affected vehicles are located in Europe, where about half of all cars on the road have diesel engines, compared to just 3% of cars in the United States.