Officials with the Environmental Protection Agency issued a second notice of violations Monday, accusing Volkswagen of violating the Clean Air Act by using defeat devices that circumvent emissions testing on diesel versions of certain vehicles equipped with 3.0-liter engines. Roughly 10,000 vehicles in the United States contain the illegal software, the EPA alleges.
That's a far smaller number than the 482,000 vehicles affected by the first instances of cheating, which Volkswagen confessed to in September. But this latest violation alleges the cheating occurred broadly through the Volkswagen empire and includes vehicles from the Porsche and Audi brands.
Audi had one model, the A3, involved in the first round of announced violations. But the brand, which has enjoyed skyrocketing sales in the US in recent years, is more extensively involved in violations announced Monday. The 2016 Audi A6 Quattro, A7 Quattro, A8, A8L and Q5 are among the cars which contain the illegal software, which permits the cars to emit nitrogen oxide at up to nine times the allowable thresholds set in the Clean Air Act, according to the EPA. The 2015 Porsche Cayenne and '14 Volkswagen Toureg SUV are also affected.
"Audi, which has been on a roll in terms of sales, reputation and image of late, now is being drawn deeper into the quagmire," said Michelle Krebs, senior analyst for Autotrader. "Previously, only the low-volume A3 was under scrutiny, but now Audi's core models are under fire."
"There is clear evidence of additional violations and it's important to put Volkswagen on notice and to inform the public." - Janet McCabe.
Audi officials did not respond to a request for comment Monday. In a written statement issued late Monday afternoon, a Porsche spokesperson said, "We are surprised to learn this information. Until this notice, all our information was that the Porsche Cayenne Diesel is fully compliant." Porsche said it would cooperate with authorities.
Monday's news undermines previous statements from Porsche that sought to distance the brand from what it termed "VW's problem." In September, a Porsche spokesperson said, "Porsche conducts our own emissions testing and calibration."
Volkswagen had heavily marketed its "Clean Diesel" technology in ads for both its mainstream and Audi lineups. Worldwide, approximately 11 million vehicles contain the so-called defeat devices, which are, more accurately, software on electronic control modules that allows the vehicles to detect when they're undergoing emissions testing and change their operations as a result, reducing emissions when testing occurs but permitting excessive levels of NOx during all other operations.
Those two modes were labeled "temperature conditioning," and "normal mode," according to EPA documents, the former of which ran during testing procedures. Once the tests were done, the vehicles reverted to normal mode "exactly one second" after completion, according to assistant EPA administrator Cynthia Giles.
Depending on the mode, the vehicle deploys different injection timing, exhaust gas recirculation rates and common rail fuel pressure which affect the levels of NOx emerging. Once testing is complete, a status bit indicates the activation of "transition to normal mode," according to the Notice of Violation.
"There is clear evidence of additional violations and it's important to put Volkswagen on notice and to inform the public," EPA assistant administrator Janet McCabe said.
These latest violations were discovered in testing initiated as a result of the first violations announced in September. EPA officials said the testing was ongoing, and they did not discount the possibility more violations would be discovered at a later date. Testing that detected the newest round of Volkswagen cheating occurred at the EPA's National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the Haggen-Smit Laboratory run by the California Air Resources Board, and the Environment Canada's River Road Laboratory.
It's not yet known whether the most recent findings will prevent Volkswagen from selling new models of the cars in the United States. The EPA issues must issue certificates of conformity to the vehicles before they can be sold, and the federal agency's officials were tight-lipped about that prospect Monday. But within the Notice of Violation issued Monday, the EPA notes "motor vehicles equipped with defeat devices cannot be certified."
The latest round of exposed cheating brought a response from Capitol Hill, where a bipartisan assortment of lawmakers expressed dismay and disgust with the company.
"The latest revelations raise the question, 'where does VW's road of deceit end,'" Rep. Fred Upton (R-Michigan), Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pennsylvania), Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colorado) and Rep. Frank Pallone (D-New Jersey) wrote in a joint statement. "The EPA expanding its investigation prompts questions regarding the prevalence of the emissions cheating and how it went undetected for so long. ... It's time for Volkswagen to fully come clean."