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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 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.

Fiat Chrysler faces record fine

Posted on Tuesday, July 28th, 2015   

Fiat Chrysler was slapped with a record $105 million fine this past Sunday by federal regulators as punishment for not completing 23 recalls of over 11 million vehicles due to safety issues. The penalty tops the $70 million fine Honda incurred this January for faulty airbags, making it the largest fine ever levied by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on an automaker for violations of federal safety rules.

Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx said of the harsh punishment: “This civil penalty puts manufacturers on notice that the department will act when they do not take their obligation to repair safety defect seriously.”

Fiat Chrysler also released a consent agreement this past Sunday in which the company admitted guilt in violating these recall regulations and agreed to the punishment, saying, “We also accept the resulting consequences with renewed resolve to improve our handling of recalls and re-establish the trust our customers place in us.”

In a recent briefing in Detroit, the highway safety agency’s new administrator, Mark R. Rosekind, told reporters that, “We need a proactive safety culture in this country.” Rosekind has made a number of moves lately in an effort to crack down on automakers that avoid correcting defective vehicles.

Laws Obstruct Prosecution of G.M. Employees Over Ignition Defect

Posted on Thursday, July 23rd, 2015   

General Motors is responsible for over 124 deaths and 266 injuries due to a faulty ignition switch, of which factory workers and corporate officials alike were aware. However, prosecutors attempting to charge individual employees who knew about this deadly defect have been met with an unfortunate legal roadblock.

Despite a history of lawmakers’ attempts to create stricter regulations, including criminal liability, for automakers, automakers and lobbyists have successfully kept legal standards low for the auto industry. The result of substantial lobbying and interference from trade groups representing the auto industry is that the current prosecution of G.M. over the release of defective automobiles is an uphill battle, with the prosecution of individual G.M. employees proving even more difficult.

Some lawmakers, including Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, are fighting to introduce laws that would inflict stiffer criminal penalties for corporate workers who knowingly conceal a defect that endangers the safety of the public. However, a spokesperson for the auto alliance argued that imposing criminal penalties would not spur faster recall decisions by automakers or help identify defects faster.

ARC Automotive airbag inflaters under investigation

Posted on Friday, July 17th, 2015   

Expanding their investigation beyond Takata-made airbags, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has launched an inquiry into airbag inflaters made by ARC Automotive. The investigation was announced Tuesday on the NHTSA’s website, explaining that the airbag inflaters are utilized in more than 400,000 model year 2002 Chrysler Town and County minivans, as well as approximately 70,000 Kia Optimas.

Investigations into this company follow reports of two separate airbag ruptures–one in 2009 involving a Town and Country minivan and the other in 2014 involving a Kia Optima–with both drivers suffering injuries. The inflaters in the airbags in question also utilize the same explosive compound that is present in recalled Takata airbags. So far, Takata has recalled more than 34 million inflaters, affecting vehicles made by 11 different automaker in the U.S. alone.

The ARC Automotive airbag inflaters, like those made by Takata, utilize ammonium nitrate to help create the gases that will inflate an airbag. However, investigations into Takata airbags have revealed that this compound can break down over time, and in doing so, can become highly combustible.

A spokesperson for Fiat Chrysler stated that the auto manufacturer no longer uses the inflater model that is under investigation.

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