The Cable

The Volkswagen Emissions Cheat Scandal Just Got a Whole Lot Fancier

The EPA says Volkswagen's luxury brands also have an emissions cheat.


The Volkswagen emission-cheating scandal expanded significantly Monday, with U.S. investigators alleging that the German carmaker’s most luxurious models had the same types of software designed to beat U.S. air pollution tests as their mid-market brethren.

On Monday, the Environmental Protection Agency said Volkswagen installed so-called “defeat devices” on the 2014-2016 diesel engines of some of the most expensive cars in its catalogue: the Volkswagen 2014 Touareg ($56,170); the 2015 Porsche Cayenne ($62,300); and the 2016 Audi A6 ($70,625), A7, A8, A8L, and Q5 (Audi and Porsche are Volkswagen subsidiaries). They join as many as 11 million of its vehicles worldwide that are outfitted with this software, including about 480,000 cars in the United States. EPA’s earlier finding identified cheaper models, like the Volkswagen Passat ($35,950) and Jetta ($26,665).

Only around 10,000 cars in the United States fall under the latest EPA accusation. But that number is likely to grow substantially in Europe, where diesel vehicles are more popular.

“VW has once again failed its obligation to comply with the law that protects clean air for all Americans,” Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance said in a statement Monday. “All companies should be playing by the same rules.”

When the EPA announced its initial investigation in September, the company quickly owned up to the scam. Days later, Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn resigned — he was replaced by Porsche boss Matthias Mueller — but that has done little to discourage a number of inquires, including one by U.S. Congress and one in Germany, where the company is headquartered.

Volkswagen did not release a statement on the EPA’s latest accusation. An email to the company’s U.S. press representative asking for comment was not returned. The latest accusation was made public in a letter to company management dated Nov. 2.

In October, Volkswagen’s CEO for North America, Michael Horn, offered U.S. lawmakers a “sincere apology” for the scandal, but blamed Volkswagen engineers — not the corporate side of the company — for the cheat.

The emissions scandal has rocked the iconic German carmaker, but also the national brand, “Made in Germany.” Brand Finance, a firm that measures the power of individual names, determined in October that Germany is no longer the strongest national brand; that honor now goes to Singapore. According to the firm, the value of the German brand — a reputation for quality and good craftsmanship that has long helped the country’s manufacturers sell goods abroad — fell by $191 billion due to the scandal, to $4.2 trillion.

The company is paying a steep financial toll for the scandal. Before news of it broke in September, its stock traded near $167. It’s now offered at $113. Last week, the company reported a quarterly loss of $3.9 billion, its first quarterly loss in 15 years.

Photo credit: Eric Piermont/Getty Images

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