The Environmental Protection Agency has ordered Volkswagen to recall 480,000 diesel-powered passenger cars sold in the United States since 2009. The recall impacts models with a 4-cylinder diesel engine and includes model years 2009 - 2015 for the VW Beetle, Jetta, Passat, and the Audi A3. It also includes the 2014-2015 VW Golf.
According to news reports, Volkswagen admitted to circumventing emissions standard by developing software that determines when emissions are being tested. Under testing conditions, pollution control devices in the vehicles reduced emissions. During ordinary operating conditions, the software deactivated the devices. The vehicles can emit up to 40X federally permitted standards for nitrogen oxide when the devices are not operating.
Nitrogen oxide contributes to the formation of smog. It has been linked to various health hazards, including asthma and other respiratory illnesses. It also contributes to the formation of ozone, which is a greenhouse gas implicated in global warming.
The EPA says that owners of the impacted devices will receive notice regarding how to get their vehicles repaired at no cost. Presumably, the repair will involve reprogramming the vehicles so that the pollution control devices operate at all times.
Automotive experts claim that the pollution control devices can reduce acceleration and torque. Once the work is performed, owners may experience reduced performance.
It is expected that the EPA will pursue additional administrative penalties against Volkswagen, which may include fines of potentially more than $18 billion dollars. It is unknown whether the government will pursue relief on behalf of consumers.
It does appear that Volkswagen is potentially liable to purchasers of vehicles, because it made explicit representations that its vehicles were emissions compliant. Dealerships may also be liable to purchasers of new or used vehicles that are subject to the recall.
We will continue to update our friends and clients who own recalled vehicles regarding their rights and responsibilities as more information becomes available.