Nate Jackson / Sep. 21, 2015

VW Faces $18 Billion in Fines for Evading EPA Regs

Central planning can only get you so far.

In the early 1970s, the newly created EPA set its sights on restricting automobile emissions as a way to reduce pollution. Automakers had to re-engineer vehicles to meet stringent guidelines from federal bureaucrats, so it’s unsurprising that the late 1970s aren’t exactly remembered fondly among car enthusiasts. Fast forward to today and Barack Obama’s EPA has been more zealous than any before it at enacting mileage and emissions standards — ostensibly to fight the menace of global warming, but in reality to exert Big Government control over every sector of the economy. It seems Volkswagen came up with a creative way to get around emissions requirements with its diesel engines in some VW and Audi models produced between 2009 and 2015. Cynthia Giles, an enforcement officer at the EPA, explained, “Put simply, these cars contained software that turns off emissions controls when driving normally and turns them on when the car is undergoing an emissions test.” That means emissions meet the standards at the time of testing, but not while driving. The problem for VW is that its diesel engines far exceeded miles-per-gallon standards, but the particulates coming out of the exhaust pipe were too high for the EPA’s liking. And Reuters reports the damage could be steep: “Volkswagen can face civil penalties of $37,500 for each vehicle not in compliance with federal clean air rules. There are 482,000 four-cylinder VW and Audi diesel cars sold since 2008 involved in the allegations. If each car involved is found to be in noncompliance, the penalty could be $18 billion.” VW doesn’t admit or deny anything at the moment, though this is a long way from settled and it could ruin the company entirely. Perhaps deservedly so after its apparent intent to deceive not only government bureaucrats but customers as well.

Meanwhile, GM settled with regulators this week and will only pay $900 million in fines for ignition switches that we know killed at least 174 people. No criminal charges.

(Updated.)

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