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September 24, 2015 — Reuters reports that government agencies confronted Volkswagen (VW) about emissions problems last year, and in April 2015 the company warned consumers about a software “glitch.”

Back in December 2014, VW had been confronted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and California Air Resources Board (CARB) about discrepancies between nitrous oxide emissions on the road and during testing.

In April, California owners of certain 2010-2014 VW cars with 2-liter diesel engines received “service action” letters recommending a software update to ensure tailpipe emissions were “optimized and operating efficiently.”

The recall was rolled out nationwide over the next few months.

What drivers didn’t know was that VW was hoping government agencies would believe that the problem was an easy-to-fix software glitch — rather than an intentional effort to lie about how much its diesel cars polluted and cheat emissions tests while marketing the cars as environmentally-friendly.

The problem is that the simplest, cheapest fix — software updates to limit emissions — will probably also impact performance.

The timing of VW’s announcement couldn’t be worse. Just days ago, the Justice Department promised to crack down on corporate crime by pursuing individual executives. No executives at GM or Toyota have been prosecuted after concealing deadly safety defects.