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Volkswagen identifies additional engines with illegal software

Posted on Friday, October 23rd, 2015   

The German automaker Volkswagen has stated that more of its engines may be in violation of European pollution laws, according to The New York Times. The specific engine model, the EA 288, was already found to be in violation of the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulations and will not necessitate a broader recall in the United States. In fact, Volkswagen has stated that this development is not likely to significantly broaden the recall in Europe, though officials declined to provide any exact figures.

This is the latest development in an ongoing emissions-cheating scandal that already involves 11 million vehicles all over the world that were equipped with another of Volkswagen’s engine lines, the EA 189. These vehicles all included illegal software that would only activate the emissions controls during official emissions testing, and that would otherwise deactivate those controls in order to improve vehicle performance.

Though Volkswagen maintains that its misconduct was limited to just a few of its key executives and engineers who are responsible for outfitting their vehicles with this emissions-cheating software, the investigation into the matter has only just begun.

Volkswagen announces second emission controlling program

Posted on Monday, October 12th, 2015   

Volkswagen has withdrawn all 2016 models of its diesel cars from environmental certification in the U.S. due to the revelation of a second program designed to affect the emissions controls in their vehicles. Federal regulators, along with California state agencies, are investigating the recently revealed device to determine whether or not it violates American emission standards.

The head of Volkswagen’s American unit, Michael Horn, disclosed the existence of the software in testimony given before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee. The company has stated that it failed to disclose the software and seek approval before introducing these vehicles into the market, giving this explanation as their reason for withdrawal.

According to agency spokesman Nick Conger, “VW did very recently provide E.P.A. with very preliminary information on an auxiliary emissions control device that VW said was included in one or more model years. [Regulators] are investigating the nature and purpose of this recently identified device.” Volkswagen has refused to comment on whether or not this software was designed to be a second cheat for the emissions control tests like the program that came to light in September and was able to detect when the vehicles were undergoing tests in order to minimize emissions.

Volkswagen emission cheat may have caused U.S. deaths

Posted on Monday, October 5th, 2015   

According to an analysis by The Associated Press, Germany-based automotive manufacturing company Volkswagen Group has been causing the death of between five and twenty people in the United States annually in recent years, all due to its schemes of getting around emission control levels imposed by the government.

VW admitted that its vehicles have computer software which allows them to sidestep the government-mandated emissions tests designed to minimize air pollution by detecting when a test is taking place and reducing emissions during that time. The amount of pollution emitted by these vehicles when testing is not in progress may have been the cause of anywhere from 16 to 94 deaths over the past seven years in America alone.

Carnegie Mellon environmental engineer professor Peter Adams corroborated AP’s assessment, saying, “statistically, we can’t point out who died because of this policy, but some people have died or likely died as a result of this.” The computer software designed to cheat the system has allowed these vehicles to produce 10 to 40 times more nitrogen oxides than government regulations permit.

Volkswagen began cheating on emissions testing in 2008

Posted on Monday, October 5th, 2015   

The recent Volkswagen scandal that has rocked the automotive industry is said to have started as early as 2008.  Volkswagen recently admitted to installing illegal devices in their “clean diesel” vehicles that could detect when an emissions test was being performed.  The devices would then activate and emit at levels that could pass the test, but actual levels of pollutants released by their vehicles were up to 40 times the legal amount.

It is said that these devices started being installed in VW vehicles in 2008 after the company realized that their diesel engines, in which they had invested millions of research dollars, could not meet regulation standards.  Rather than continuing research and developing more expensive engines that could pass emission tests, VW installed the illegal devices in up to 11 million of its vehicles worldwide.

It is still unclear which company officials were involved in the scandal, but three top managers have already been suspended in addition to the company’s CEO stepping down. Volkswagen has seen intense backlash, with stock prices falling and a number of consumer suits on the horizon against the German automaker.  VW promises to continue intense investigations into the scandal and is expected to release information from an internal inquiry later this week.

Small research group was first to notice Volkswagen fraud

Posted on Monday, September 28th, 2015   

Last week, one of the biggest scandals in automotive history became public after Volkswagen admitted to installing illegal software in their vehicles in order to cheat emission tests.  The scandal affects nearly 11 million vehicles worldwide, nearly 500,000 in the U.S. alone, and has raised 30 class action lawsuits against the company.  However, many are unaware of how this scandal came to light.

In 2012, in order to perform emission tests on clean diesel vehicles, a research group at West Virginia University received a $50,000 grant from the International Council on Clean Transportation.  When the research team started testing Volkswagen vehicles, the emissions levels were off by up to 35 times the expected amounts.  When the data was made public a year and a half ago, many began to raise questions, including the California Air Resources Board (CARB).

CARB and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began discussions with Volkswagen to uncover why there were such massive discrepancies, with VW first claiming technical issues were to blame.  Only after the EPA threatened to not approve VW’s clean diesel cars for sale in 2016 did the company finally admit to deliberate cheating.  As the scandal continues to develop, VW’s stock continues to plummet and the future of their clean diesel vehicles is unclear.

Ignition defect verdict against GM raises concerns

Posted on Monday, September 21st, 2015   

After failure to relay important safety information regarding faulty ignition switches in their vehicles, an act that cost 124 individuals their lives, GM was issued a $900 million fine last week as part of a deferred prosecution agreement. While many believed the fine was too small, there was hope that individual company employees would also face criminal charges for their complicity in the concealment of this dangerous defect.  However, no company officials who were involved in the scheme have been charged and, additionally, if GM complies with the terms of the deferred prosecution agreement, all criminal charges against the company will be dropped.

Many are outraged that the company is not being forced to plead guilty and is paying a relatively small amount in relation to how many lives were lost. As part of the deferred prosecution agreement, GM admitted to knowing as early as 2004 about the faulty ignition switches but did nothing to recall any affected vehicles. Many are criticizing the Justice Department for the decision in this case specifically, as well as the broader implications it has about using deferred prosecution and nonprosecution agreements in lieu of criminal convictions in instances of corporate crime.

VW ordered to recall diesel vehicles by E.P.A.

Posted on Monday, September 21st, 2015   

Volkswagen was issued a directive by the Obama administration on Friday to recall close to a half-million of its vehicles. This comes after the Environmental Protection Agency issued a notice of violation over an accusation that the company illegally installed a so-called “defeat device” in its 4-cylinder Volkswagen and Audi vehicles. These devices are believed to have been installed in diesel vehicles dating back to 2009.

According to The New York Times, officials with the E.P.A. have reported that the German automaker has admitted to the installation of defeat devices in its vehicles and it will be cooperating with the investigation. Since the E.P.A. ordered Volkswagen to recall its vehicles, the company’s chief executive has publicly apologized for breaking the trust of customers and the public at large. The case against Volkswagen will be jointly investigated by the Justice Department, the E.P.A., and the state of California.

Defeat devices installed in the Volkswagen and Audi vehicles were intended to conceal the emissions levels of the nitrogen oxide, a pollutant that directly contributes to smog and ozone creation. When installed, these defeat devices can detect official emissions testing equipment so the vehicles’ complete emission control systems will be activated for the duration of the test. Under normal circumstances, the controls systems are switched off and the vehicle may release pollutants at more than 40 times the legal maximums as set by the Clean Air Act.

The E.P.A.’s notice of violation is indicative of a broader shift in policy toward a more proactive regulation of the automotive industry. Bearing that in mind, this move against Volkswagen may be interpreted as a stern message to other automakers about the kind of treatment they can expect if they willfully disregard federal regulations..


Prosecutors settle with GM over ignition defect

Posted on Thursday, September 17th, 2015   

The criminal investigation into General Motor’s handling of faulty ignition switches was settled today, after federal prosecutors accused GM of not disclosing a serious safety defect in some of its ignition switches that has been associated with at least 124 deaths.

Though some executives with GM expected that the penalty would exceed the record $1.2 billion penalty paid by Toyota for its own concealment of a serious defect, federal prosecutors will only be imposing a $900 million dollar penalty on General Motors. As part of the deal, GM also had to admit that it failed to disclose important information about a potentially deadly defect with ignitions in certain vehicles. It is still unclear as to whether prosecutors will be pressing any charges against individual employees with GM.

As long as GM complies with the terms announced today for the next three years, the company will have the two criminal charges against them dismissed. Those criminal charges include charges of wire fraud and “scheming to conceal material facts from a government regulator.”

Fiat Chrysler issues recall of Ram 1500 Quad Cab truck

Posted on Friday, September 11th, 2015   

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Fiat Chrysler is issuing a recall of nearly 1.7 million Ram trucks.

Accounting for about 188,000 of the vehicles recalled in this announcement are 2014 – 2015 Ram 1500 Quad Cab pickup trucks that reportedly have an issue that may prevent the side curtain airbags from adequately overlapping the C-pillars in the event of a collision. This issue represents a failure on Fiat Chrysler’s behalf to meet federal regulations to “reduce the risk of rear-occupant ejection during a rollover crash,” according to the NHTSA report. While there have been no reported incidents related to the issue, its presence raises the risk of injury to backseat passengers.

The auto maker reminded owners that “All FCA US vehicles are equipped with electronic stability control, which reduces the risk of rollovers” on their website; however the statement also reminds drivers and passengers to always wear their seatbelts.

As the recall is still under development and not yet official, owners must wait to schedule service appointments for their affected vehicles. For more information, contact Fiat Chrysler’s customer service at 1-800-853-1403.

If you have been injured in a collision caused by a defect in your vehicle, contact the attorneys at Pohl & Berk, LLP, to let us help you fight for compensation for your unnecessary suffering.

Goodyear facing major penalties for deceptive court practices in faulty tire cases

Posted on Friday, September 4th, 2015   

The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company is facing severe legal punishment after engaging in deceptive legal practices and attempting to conceal evidence of a defect and the resulting damage for at least a decade. The company has been involved in dozens of lawsuits over tread separations and blow outs with their G-159 tires. Court records accuse the company of failure to accurately report every death and injury related to the tire to federal safety officials, despite the fact that the particular tire was the subject of over 40 lawsuits at one time.

One federal court judge ruled that Goodyear lawyers withheld evidence, misled courts, and sought to seal documents in an effort to keep the G-159 defect a secret. A few tenacious lawyers representing the victims in some of these lawsuits have finally been able to obtain certain information and shed a great deal of light on Goodyear’s legal tactics.

In one such case in which the Haeger family sought compensation after a blowout caused their recreational vehicle to wreck, court documents allege that Goodyear was aware of the G-159’s incompatibility with motor homes, yet “made no subsequent effort to warn users about the liability … made no effort to inform the government what Goodyear knew … and made no effort to otherwise recall the tire or provide any post-sale warning.” They go on to assert that the company adopted a strategy in which individual claims were dealt with one at a time and any critical or pertinent information revealed during those cases would be concealed, regardless of the fact that the information they sought to hide could have prevented future deaths and injuries due to tread separation on the G-159.

In her ruling on the Heager case, U.S. District Judge Roslyn Silver of Arizona found Goodyear guilty of deception and “serious discovery misconduct,” and ordered the company to pay over $2.7 million in sanctions for fraud. Silver also ordered the company to include a copy of her ruling in every G-159 civil case nationwide. Though Goodyear is seeking appeals, a tribunal of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Silver’s decision.

Owners of motor homes that are not used frequently may still have defective tires if they have not been changed recently. If you own a motor home with G159 275/70 22.5 tires, it is in your best interest to replace them right away.

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