VW Pleads Guilty in Emission Scandal

13 March 2017

Volkswagen AG pleaded guilty in a United States court to criminal felony charges related to government emissions tests.

The March 9 plea is part of a $4.3 billion settlement reached with the Justice Department in January over the automaker's diesel emissions scandal.

(Read "VW Scandal: When Good Engineers Do the Wrong Thing.")

Volkswagen pleaded guilty in a Detroit federal court on conspiracy charges to defraud the U.S., to commit wire fraud and violate the Clean Air Act, obstruction of justice, and import violations. The automaker’s agreement includes a $2.8 billion fine, and resolves a probe by the Justice Department.

Volkswagen also agreed to pay an additional $1.5 billion civil penalty to settle the U.S. investigation. Other civil settlements with regulators, consumers, dealers, and state attorneys general could cost the company more than $20 billion.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency disclosed the scandal back in September of 2015. The EPA said the company cheated on emissions tests for at least six years, and that Volkswagen’s vehicles emitted tailpipe emissions up to 40 times above allowable levels. Volkswagen admitted to installing problematic software in about 11 million vehicles globally, which led to government hearings and investigations targeting many of its senior executives.

Assistant U.S. attorney John Neal told the court that the emissions scheme "was a well thought-out, planned offense that went to the top of the organization."

"Volkswagen deeply regrets the behavior that gave rise to the diesel crisis. The agreements that we have reached with the U.S. government reflect our determination to address misconduct that went against all of the values Volkswagen holds so dear," the company said in a statement. "Volkswagen today is not the same company it was 18 months ago."

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