Kez Casey | Jan 5, 2016

While the waves of breaking news regarding Volkswagen’s diesel emissions scandal may have slowed slightly, behind-the-scenes proceedings have not. The United States government has filed a civil lawsuit against Volkswagen alleging that it deliberately hid details of emissions defeat devices fitted to as many as 600,000 vehicles.

The complaint identifies Volkswagen, Audi, and Porsche company officials as deliberately violating the US Clean Air Act through use of systems that detect emissions testing procedures and alter engine operating parameters to provide cleaner-running results than they would during normal on-road operation.

The US Environmental Protection Agency is seeking damages of up to US$37,500 (A$52,200) per vehicle, with the Department Of Justice seeking up to US$3,750 (A$5220) for each component installed with the intent to alter emissions test results. The total cost of the legal action could cost Volkswagen as much as US$18 billion (A$25 billion).

“Today’s complaint is the first stage in bringing Volkswagen to justice for failing to disclose the defeat device while seeking certification for its diesel vehicles from [the] EPA," said U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade

“The alleged misrepresentations allowed almost 600,000 diesel engines to emit excessive air pollution across the country, harming our health and cheating consumers.”

The EPA and California Air Resources Board first discovered marked differences between test results and real world driving figures in December of 2014 and spent the next nine months carrying out further investigations into the matter.

Initially believed to affect four-cylinder EA189 diesel engines, further investigations revealed that the Volkswagen Group’s 3.0 litre diesel V6 was also found to deliver similar test variations when compared to real-world situations.

“With today’s filing, we take an important step to protect public health by seeking to hold Volkswagen accountable for any unlawful air pollution, setting us on a path to resolution,” said Assistant Administrator Cynthia Giles for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.

“So far, recall discussions with the company have not produced an acceptable way forward. These discussions will continue in parallel with the federal court action.”

While this latest legal action is being carried out as a civil case against Volkswagen, further legal action against the company by the United States government is still possible, pending ongoing investigations into the 'dieselgate' emissions scandal.

Volkswagen Australia has announced details of a fix for affected four-cylinder diesel engines (read the details here), although is yet to begin implementing the recall. Customers in the United States are still waiting to discover what action the Volkswagen Group Of America will take to redress the issue of the affected vehicles.

MORE: Volkswagen | Emissions | Diesel

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