Perhaps the biggest question to arise from Volkswagen’s Dieselgate cheating scandal has to be: “Who else is doing this?” The Environmental Protection Agency said today that they intend to find out. But even if they crack down on VW, how much will the automaker really pay?
The EPA today sent a letter to automakers notifying it’s adding “additional evaluations” to testing procedures designed to detect cheating systems like the ones on 11 million global diesel VWs.
It’s a relatively brief letter, and doesn’t go into much detail about how this additional testing will work, but the EPA will now add extra real-world driving tests to the diesel cars it evaluates each year. The LA Times elaborates:
The EPA said it now will test or require testing on any vehicle in a setting that emulates normal driving specifically for investigating the presence of a so-called defeat device, the industry term for systems that hide a vehicle’s true emissions.
This will be in addition to the five standard emissions tests all new vehicles undergo and may require additional time, the agency said.
The agency and its partners also will use portable devices to measure the real-life emissions of vehicles as they are driven on open roads, Grundler said.
Many people were shocked to learn the EPA doesn’t emissions-test every new car for sale in the U.S., but rather only analyzes about 10 to 15 percent of new cars. Most of those tested cars are chosen randomly, but some are targeted for specific reasons.
You can guess that diesels sold by General Motors, Fiat Chrysler, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, VW (whenever that happens again) and others will be picked and subjected to a great deal more scrutiny from now on. Once again from the LAT:
“EPA is on the job,” said Luke Tonachel, director of clean vehicles and fuels project at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “This expansion of testing is another signal that cheating will not be tolerated.”
VW could face as much as $18 billion in fines from the diesel cheat that affected nearly 500,000 vehicles in the U.S. That number gets bandied around quite a bit, but much like the threat of criminal prosecution, that’s probably unlikely.
Today The Truth About Cars ran the numbers on a possible VW penalty based on the EPA’s own fine worksheets and the charge levied against Hyundai and Kia for their fuel economy transgressions. TTAC came up with a much more realistic $3.2 billion:
It should be noted that by applying the same logic and math, Hyundai and Kia’s fine would have been substantially more than it was. The EPA eventually fined the Korean automakers $79.25 per engine, much less than the possible $37,500 per violation standard, and $21,775 (before multipliers) they could have. It’s clear that there is plenty of flexibility under the guidelines.
But a by-the-numbers breakdown pegs VW’s civil penalty at $3,262,518,776.
Click the link to see how they did it. Either way, that’s a far more feasible outcome in this case, even though $18 billion is the vastly more alarming one. Of course, VW cheated emissions in multiple markets and their problem is a global one, so these fines could add up quickly. VW has set aside $7.2 billion to cover the cost of the ordeal.
Meanwhile, expect an emboldened EPA and California Air Resources Board out of this mess. Who else could be cheating? We may just find out soon.
Photo credit AP
Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.