Business / Auto Global

Three US states sue VW, say execs covered up diesel cheating

(China Daily) Updated: 2016-07-25 09:02

Three US states sue VW, say execs covered up diesel cheating

Two logos of German carmaker Volkswagen at a VW dealership in the Queens borough of New York. [Photo/Agencies]

Senior executives at Volkswagen AG, including its former chief executive, covered up evidence that the German automaker had cheated on US diesel emissions tests for years, three US states charged on Tuesday in civil lawsuits against the company.

New York, Massachusetts and Maryland filed separate, nearly identical lawsuits in state courts, accusing the world's No. 2 automaker of violating their environmental laws.

The lawsuits, which could lead to state fines of hundreds of millions of dollars or more, complicate VW's efforts to move past the "Dieselgate" scandal that has hurt its business and reputation, and already cost it billions of dollars.

The suits outlined more than a decade of efforts by VW to deceive regulators in the United States and Europe, citing internal VW documents.

VW last September admitted using sophisticated secret software in its cars to cheat exhaust emissions tests, affecting millions of vehicles worldwide. The scandal prompted the departure of VW's CEO and other executives.

The states charged that dozens of VW employees at various levels knew that the company's "clean diesel" engines could not meet pollution standards in normal driving conditions without compromises to performance or fuel economy. The suits publicly identified for the first time many of these employees and accused them of "unlawful conduct".

The suits said at least eight employees in VW's engineering department deleted or removed incriminating data last August after a senior attorney advised them of an impending order not to destroy documents. The New York suit stated that "some but not all of the data has been recovered".

The suits were filed by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in Albany, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey in Boston and Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh in Baltimore. Additional states could file similar actions, Schneiderman's office said.

Healey said the suit is aimed at sending a message "to all auto manufacturers that violating laws designed to protect our environment and our public health is unacceptable and will be punished with significant penalties".

VW spokeswoman Jeannine Ginivan criticized the states' decision to file suits and said the company has already agreed to spend billions of dollars to address all environmental harm from the excess emissions.

The states' claims "are essentially not new and we have been addressing them in our discussions with US federal and state authorities," Ginivan said. "It is regrettable that some states have decided to sue for environmental claims now."

Former VW CEO Martin Winterkorn and former global head of marketing, Christian Klingler, knew by spring 2014 "of the existence of unlawful 'defeat devices' and did nothing to prevent both Audi and Volkswagen from repeatedly deceiving regulators," the New York lawsuit stated.


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