back to article Happy new year, VW: Uncle Sam sues over engine cheatware

VW's year just got a lot worse already. Not only has the US government filed a lawsuit over its emissions-cheating software: it's also emerged that different software was written for 2.0 and 3.0 liter engines. The Department of Justice's complaint is that the engine management software put VW in breach of the Clean Air Act. …

  1. Your alien overlord - fear me

    Wonder if they'll use the Clean Air Act against the gas company currently pumping tons of methane into the atmosphere per day for the lasr few months (and said to continue for a few more monts)?

  2. PJF
    Joke

    By-By V-Dub

    At least in the US.

    The one, and only, veedub I ever owned was a pass-down '78 Diesel Rabbit - turd brown exterior, and a "smoother" brown interior. ..

    I WILL NOT knock it - it was free (well - at the time living with the parents where nothing is "free"[father sold it after I left for the military and pocketed the $1g for a 8 y-o car]) and I filled it up once-a-MONTH (basically to-from work ~ 15 mile round-trip + weekend run-a-round)

    It did act as a B.C.V.[G] (Birth Control Vehicle[Glasses] - who would want to date me then ?!?! [then the glasses in the military - I was just fckd!])

    1. AndyS

      Re: By-By V-Dub

      Sorry, what are you on about?

      1. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

        Re: By-By V-Dub

        He is probably intimating that the company will be likely to go to the wall after this; especially if the buyers (no thanks to The Register for their early warning system (despite recent reports)) want their money back.

        There is every chance that stock prices will go so low that even British manufacturers, such as Bentley, will be in with an uncertain thingy.

  3. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

    Grandstanding

    I doubt the fine will be all that large. VW may have defense that could be interesting; assuming the same software is used in Europe. That is only the EPA is having a hissy fit and no one else which would point to political motivations for attacking VW. I would not be surprised if some of the motivation is to attack one of the smaller foreign players in the US market to protect Government Motors and the UAW.

    1. Mad Chaz

      Re: Grandstanding

      Or maybe they are just saying "follow the law or else". As this applies to a large corporation, this is not usual for the US, but still to be commended.

    2. Sanctimonious Prick
      Facepalm

      Re: Grandstanding

      @a_yank_lurker

      "Volkswagen Group Australia has been hit with the first round of class action in the wake of the global emissions-rigging scandal..."

      "The case includes roughly 91,000 Australian owners of Volkswagen diesel cars..."

      Link here.

    3. AndyS

      Re: Grandstanding

      I think the outcome will be the pragmatic fact that everyone else is, to some extent, doing the same or similar. If max fines are applied, the levels will quickly be beyond ludicrous. Much like the fines proposed by the music "industry" for pirating, which seem to imply that "lost income" exceeds the GDP of the entire world.

      A compromise will need to be made. It will undoubtedly still hurt VW pretty badly, but not in the ballpark of what is being suggested.

  4. John Tserkezis

    Ah, let me tell you about the EPA.

    "The lawsuit covers four complaints made on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)"

    The EPA (pick your favorite version) can be just as corrupt as any other agency.

    The EPA in Australia was stopping all motorcycles on a popular weekend route to check to see if their tanks had an "Unleaded fuel only" sticker on it. (back when leaded fuel was still sort-of available). Apparently, many took the sticker off for cosmetic reasons.

    Great you say, except someone at the EPA forgot to check that the sticker requirement had been repealed TWO YEARS EARLIER.

    By far most had paid up and didn't know you could get your money back. The EPA made a killing on that. The crooks.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ah, let me tell you about the EPA.

      The US EPA recently allowed a huge spill of toxic metals to flow into a major river from a mine they were fiddling with, and then they whitewashed the whole thing, blaming no one at all. Particularly not themselves. Others are being jailed for lesser crimes every year, by that same EPA. Also they are trying to extend their reach over every damp spot in the country on the pretext that those are precious and fragile wetlands, needing the clammy hand of regulation for salvation.

      And now the EPA wants to drop a train on VW instead of some reasonable penalty that fits the infraction. It's the very picture of a government agency that is totally out of control.

      1. AndyS

        Re: Ah, let me tell you about the EPA.

        > they are trying to extend their reach over every damp spot in the country on the pretext that those are precious and fragile wetlands, needing the clammy hand of regulation for salvation.

        You Americans really do hate the environment, don't you? Bizarre.

        1. Dan Paul

          Re: Ah, let me tell you about the EPA.

          You have no idea as you morons welcome the hand of government up your skirts every day. You whiny "intellectuals" don't even comprehend the scale of the US let alone what happens when the government is way out of control and overstepping its bounds by trying to regulate what supposedly qualifies as "wetlands". Just because there is an occasional puddle once in a blue moon doesn't mean this land is a regulated "wetlands"

          It's not hate for the environment, it's hate for an unjust and tyrannical government that has overreached and overregulated the lives of many ranchers and farmers. Those people were living on the land long before BLM existed.

          Would it be too much to assume that any of you 'tards understand anything you comment blindly on?

          I guess so....

          1. BoldMan

            Re: Ah, let me tell you about the EPA.

            Wow, angry much?

          2. Stevie Silver badge

            Re: Ah, let me tell you about the EPA.

            Posted from a tent in Oregon?

          3. Someone Else Silver badge
            Trollface

            Re: Ah, let me tell you about the EPA.

            Would it be too much to assume that any of you 'tards understand anything you comment blindly on?

            I'd ask you the same question, but far be it fro me to get in the way of a good (if somewhat incoherent) rant....

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Ah, let me tell you about the EPA.

              > "I'd ask you the same question, but far be it fro me to get in the way of a good (if somewhat incoherent) rant...."

              Does everyone who fails to agree with your stances "rant incoherently?" Got any more devastating putdowns?

          4. Anonymous Coward
            Windows

            Re: Ah, let me tell you about the EPA.

            "Would it be too much to assume that any of you 'tards understand anything you comment blindly on?"

            Yes it would. Can't trust 'em, they're all monkeys...

          5. Keven E
            Facepalm

            Understand *this

            "Those people were living on the land long before BLM existed."

            LOL... not this guy again...

            ...talk about Europeans on North American "land".

      2. toughluck

        Re: Ah, let me tell you about the EPA.

        So, it's a European company that was trying to run a business in the US and ran afoul of the law. That's a recipe for disaster. Whether it's protectionism of local business, revenge against a foreign national is irrelevant. VW are being sued for breaking the law. If you break the law in the US, you're in deep shit, and unless you can lie or legislate your way out of it, you won't get away.

        It also has to be said that it's better that EPA is actually doing something that is in their mandate rather than the alternative, which would be to let everyone just break the law and emit anything they want from the tailpipe.

        In the EU, most countries are really slow to initiate any proceedings against VW for the simple reason that there are too many hands in others' pockets (or around others' throats) and they're not sure what's going to happen if they start the ball rolling. In this particular case, it's the Europeans that are too slow.

        Assuming other manufacturers are clear of any cheating here, VW had undue advantage over them by means of lower costs and it's almost certain they would have lost many sales to competition if they followed the same rules as everyone else.

      3. Adam 1

        Re: Ah, let me tell you about the EPA.

        If you think this is a minor infraction then I don't quite think you understand what NOx is. If they exaggerated their figures by 10% you might be able to argue that it was minor, but not when your violations are orders of magnitude over the limit.

        That doesn't mean you need to like the EPA or their methods, but even a stopped clock is right twice a day. VW deserve what they get.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dak, Dak, Dak....

    VW might lose their shirt, and their dacks* over this one.

    * Oz: Trousers.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Dak, Dak, Dak....

      Dacks=Trousers

      Pants = underwear.

      To our USA contingent, Pants are worn UNDER trousers.

  6. The Vociferous Time Waster

    Evil corporations

    Aren't we always saying evil corporations should be properly punished?

    1. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

      Re: Evil corporations

      Evil corporations would be properly punished if they were in the business of defending their good names but one way around a foreign company falling in the sward would be for it to sell up or change its name so to speak.

      How long before the WV franchise takes over?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Perhaps we in Europe should start whacking a few American companies that pay no corporation Tax.

    1. KjetilS

      We should, but what does that have to do with this story?

    2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Perhaps we in Europe should start whacking a few American companies that pay no corporation Tax.

      You mean by fixing the European laws that make it quite legal and legitimate for the companies to do that? Or are you proposing some sort of taliban-morality-police-style whacking approach, to punish the companies for immorally taking perfectly legal advantage of loopholes in the over-complex legislation that European politicos wrote?

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge
        Trollface

        Personally, I wouldn't be totally opposed to a bit of both.

  8. Otto is a bear.

    It all depends on the outcome

    VW should not get away with breaking the law, nor should any corporation, but the US does have a history of punishing overseas corporations more than their own.

    Beggaring VW will serve no one in the US or elsewhere, but then if they do, don't be surprised if GM or Ford decide to buy the remains of the business.

    Someone in VW has been very stupid, but punishing everyone associated with VW, be they worker or owner will serve no one. Justice needs to be seen to be done, but I suspect the US justice system will go for vengeance as it always does.

    1. Zimmer

      Re: It all depends on the outcome

      --Someone in VW has been very stupid, but punishing everyone associated with VW, be they worker or owner--- or pensioner---- will serve no one.

    2. Nigel 11

      Re: It all depends on the outcome

      Well, I sure hope that the EU has someone looking long and hard at Ford and GM engines, because I doubt that the authorities in the USA are looking very hard. They need to buy a few in the USA and ship them over here, since the USA requirements differ and so USA software may be different to the EU software

      If it turns out that they've managed to create engines that do achieve compliance without cheating, then frankly I have no sympathy for VW (and will probably then put VAG on my personal don't buy list and let Ford off it ).

      If it turns out that they've all been cheating, the EU has to insist on fully equal treatment of all the companies involved. Don't let them get away with "American cheating is less bad than European cheating"!

      1. BenR

        Re: It all depends on the outcome

        If I was VAG, this is exactly what i'd be doing myself.

        All proper like - no fiddling of any results, but I'd be buying some EU and US models of popular cars, and running the appropriate EU and US emissions tests on them both to compare results.

        And if - *IF* - i found anything fishy, there'd be a few "anonymous" emails to the various environmental protection bodies and political persons in the respective governments...

        1. Dan Wilkie

          Re: It all depends on the outcome

          I think they are - GM/Vauxhall/Opel are already being looked at over allegations that the Zafira Diesel breaches EU Emissions regulations.

          What a cluster....

      2. NotBob
        Holmes

        Re: It all depends on the outcome

        "They need to buy a few in the USA and ship them over here, since the USA requirements differ and so USA software may be different to the EU software"

        Good luck with comparing the way you seem to want to do. Most diesels on this side of the pond are quite bigger than the average VW or related. Big pickups, big service vehicles, over-the-road haulers, and agricultural equipment.

        Most of our cars are gasoline. Regulated, but quite differently than diesels. I doubt you'd get much of a reasonable comparison.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It all depends on the outcome

        > "Well, I sure hope that the EU has someone looking long and hard at Ford and GM engines, because I doubt that the authorities in the USA are looking very hard."

        I think (but could be wrong) most American manufactures simply buy-in their diesel engines from European companies (PSA or Mercedes, it seems) for their European market models ...

        Looking at the history of fines issued by the EPA for this kind of thing is kinda interesting: http://arstechnica.com/cars/2015/10/volkswagens-emissions-cheating-scandal-has-a-long-complicated-history/2/

    3. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: It all depends on the outcome

      VW should not get away with breaking the law

      But did they actually break the law or make false declarations?

      From the reports it is obvious that ALL cars (with particular engines etc.) had the same software, so VW could hand-on-heart (!) say that the vehicle(s) provided for testing had not been modified from the consumer available version.

      Likewise, what does the EPA emission limit really mean, is it an average, an absolute maximum never to be exceeded etc. etc. I can see the legal people will be looking for all sorts of technicalities.

      the US does have a history of punishing overseas corporations more than their own.

      This is VW's achilles heel, just as it was BP's over Deepwater Horizon, but not Exxon's over the Exxon Valdez...

    4. dajames Silver badge

      Re: It all depends on the outcome

      Someone in VW has been very stupid, but punishing everyone associated with VW, be they worker or owner will serve no one.

      Indeed. As a remedy for stupidity education has more to recommend it than punishment.

  9. Herby

    Teaching to the Test...

    If this was a school in the USA the teachers would be given a "gold star" for lower test scores.

    If you design something that need to be tested, you always make sure that the test will pass. It is done in software all the time.

    I'm sure that Microsoft "tests" their software and it always passes. They know what the tests do and make sure it all goes well.

    It happens all the time. If the EPA/CARB wants to make sure that tests work, they should audit the results with a drive test. The EPA/CARB is a little lax in the area.

    (for the California challenged: CARB=California Air Resources Board)

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Teaching to the Test...

      If you design something that need to be tested, you always make sure that the test will pass.

      But it also depends upon what the real objective of the test is.

      One of the objectives of the IEEE LAN and OSI/MAP/TOP conformance testing suites that were developed in the mid to late 80's was to make it more cost effective to actually design and implement the protocol and service specifications rather than try and cheat.

      I get the distinct impression that emissions testing is more analogous to final acceptance testing which is more about box ticking than stress testing.

  10. 2Fat2Bald

    I'm not entirely sure how this works out....What if VW just withdraws from the US market entirely? Can the US Government actually recover the money from VW if they have no US presence?

    Quite honestly, if VW were to pay the sums being being discussed then it sounds like it would put them out of business. It certainly wouldn't make a continued US presence profitable.

    1. Test Man

      What's withdrawing from the US market got to do with being fined for what they did? Withdrawing won't change a thing and doesn't stop them from being fined and having to pay, obviously.

      And clearly VW aren't going to withdraw from the market anyway, it's the US, a very very profitable market so not a chance they'll even consider it.

      1. Dan Wilkie

        Alfa did... But they weren't in the same boat as presumably they would have to stop VW/Porsche/Audi/Skoda/Seat and whoever else is in the group or the find would just come from them.

        I agree with the majority of people here, if domestic manufacturers can comply without cheating, then VW deserve whats coming to them.

        If GM/Ford etc were also cheating, then they should get equal punishment.

        I think that's all anyone is after. But they also have a point that if VW ceases US operations, then they would have to be pursued in European courts, and considering how important they are to the German economy it could have a very different impact.

        1. NotBob
          Holmes

          Stopping operations would actually make things worse. All the new cars sold with a warranty for the next several years create an obligation to actually provide that warranty and related service. Think class-action suit for breach of contract including anyone who bought a VW or subsidiary in the last 5 years.

          Then there's parts, since VW is a special snowflake for parts and tools. Now nobody can repair them, and consumers in other countries start to think twice about buying in case the same thing happens.

          Sales and, as a result, prices drop internationally on VW et all.

          Don't forget stock price. VW can't be traded in the US. Sales are dropping from the other issues. How do you think that will affect stock prices?

    2. Laura Kerr

      Not sure why you've been downvoted... that occurred to me, too. If VW just shut up shop and walked away, the Americans would presumably have to go after them in a European court. The outcome there might be a little saner.

  11. Grenou

    How very American, sue sue and sue some more, that's how to make easy money :-(

    1. BenR

      While true, not the case.

      The headline says "sue", but this will actually be a criminal suit for violating of a federal statute.

      1. Nigel 11

        this will actually be a criminal suit for violating of a federal statute.

        ... against a body corporate. If its done the usual way, VW USA is a separate corporation from VW Global HQ/ VW holdings/ whatever, and could be allowed to go bankrupt provided VW Global is willing to "never" do any business in the USA in future. The US could try to come after VW globally, but that would have to be via civil lawsuits under German law or the law of other non-US countries where VW owns local businesses.

        Oh, and certain current and former VW executives would be extremely ill-advised to set foot in the USA, or even outside the EU, for the next decade or so.

        How large a fraction of VW's entire global operations is VW USA?

        1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

          In 2014 it was in terms of revenue (all euros)

          EU - 122.86B

          Asia Pacific - 38.11B

          North America - 27.62B

          South America - 13.87B

          (source statista.com)

          so that's about 13.7% (but includes Mexico and Canada as well as the US I assume). I would guess (?) that these are reasonably indicative of assets, possibly biased in exaggerating the USA contribution given their major manufacturing bases?

  12. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    Drag, drag, drag the Krauts

    Screaming into court

    Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily

    Life is such good sport.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Bah!

      Personally, i dont see why or how anyone is suprised that we have a group of Germans trying to gas us all.

      PS, LITRE!!!!!

      1. Stevie Silver badge

        Re: Bah!

        Firstly, I did not mention any unit of measurement in my post to which you are replying in shouty letters (or should that be "lettres"?).

        Secondly, you may kowtow to the French and spell the word in their simpering effete fashion. We in America (Land of the Free) will spell it how we say it, which isn't often since we measure everything we care about - including our cheaper-than-water gasoline - in proper gallons. They aren't the same as British gallons (which is because we refuse to be bound by Imperialistic Units of Measure handed down by the condescending lackeys of King George III and which the British themselves cared so little about they allowed their fawning French-appeasing government to switch to using Johnny Foreigner units of measure), but the mile is not the same either so it all works out.

        Thirdly, if you were as clever as you so obviously think you are you would know all of this already and not get so bent out of shape over something this petty.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Bah!

          @Stevie

          get laid much?

          Talk about sensitivity issues.

          "Thirdly, if you were as clever as you so obviously think you are you would know all of this already and not get so bent out of shape over something this petty".

          You should follow your own advice my fellow commentard.

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

          2. Stevie Silver badge

            Re: Bah!

            Well, I'm flattered by the offer but I'm a happily married man so I'm going to have to turn down your kind offer of sexual congress.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    GM, Ford etc

    Are all quietly changing the software on their cars when you take them in for servicing or via On Star hoping to be ahead of the game

  14. Blank-Reg
    Mushroom

    LITER?!

    Liter? LITER? What the blooming heck.

    Where's the el-reg gravestone when you need it

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021