EPA’s Lawsuit Against VW Kick Started A Crusade Against The Auto Industry

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) initial lawsuit targeting Volkswagen’s fuel emission scandal has spawned a slew of similar lawsuits, including one that does not appear to have the agency’s backing.

EPA’s successful investigation and lawsuit earlier this year against the German company has prompted vehicle owners to sue General Motors and Fiat Chrysler, with the former having received permission from the agency to produce a slew of diesel vehicles.

VW pleaded guilty in March to charges from “diesel gate,” which affected more than 500,000 vehicles and cost the automaker billions of dollars. VW was sentenced to three years’ probation and forced to pay billions of dollars in penalties.

The company admitted in 2015 to installing so-called defeat devices in hundreds of thousands of diesel-powered vehicles in the U.S. The Bosch devices would activate during road conditions when emission measuring tools were not engaged.

VW agreed to spend up to $25 billion in the U.S. to address the scandal – it also was tasked with recalling and fixing the tainted vehicles. The company was sentenced to three years of probation and forced to pay billions of dollars in penalties. EPA officials championed their victory over the company last year.

“Individuals with VW are being charged to show that those who commit serious crimes will be charged with face serious charges,” former EPA administrator Gina McCarthy said in a statement shortly after a court penalized the company. Regulators keeps big corporations from running rough shod over American consumers, she added at the time.

But government officials weren’t happy with taking down VW. They pursued Fiat shortly thereafter. The Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against the Italian auto company and claimed it used similar emission-cheating software as its German counterpart.

Fiat affixed “cheat devices” to 104,000 light duty diesel vehicles that were not disclosed to regulators during the certification application process, according to the lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of the EPA.

The lawsuit also alleges the automaker equipped late-year Grand Cherokees and Dodge Ram 1500s with at least eight software-based features that curtail the vehicles’ emission control systems. The devices allowed the vehicle to push out higher levels oxides of nitrogen than the EPA permits.

Unlike VW, Fiat has maintained its innocence. Company officials told reporters that they plan on fighting claims “it engaged in any deliberate scheme to install defeat devices to cheat U.S. emissions tests.”

One of the law firms that represented vehicle owners in their pursuit of VW and Fiat has turned its ire against GM. Hagens Berman Sobol claims the Detroit-based company affixed 705,000 late-model Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups with at least three so-called defeat devices to dupe air regulators.

Hagens’ nearly 200-page complaint contains about 85 of references to VW, and claims the environmental damage from the diesel-powered truck could surpass by magnitudes that of the German automakers.

GM denied installing any such devices, and a spokesman Dan Flores told reporters the “claims are baseless, and we will vigorously defend ourselves.” The company added that it has complied fully with environmental regulations.

The auto company might be simply fighting to maintain a badly damaged image. It has already paid about $2.5 billion in penalties associated with faulty ignition switches linked to several deaths.

Still, the vehicle owners suggest GM’s cheating allowed its trucks to pass U.S. inspections, despite spewing nearly five times the legal amount of emissions under regular driving conditions, according to the lawsuit.

But the EPA has yet to accuse the company of emissions violations. In fact, the agency approved the company’s application to produce and sell tens of thousands of 2017 Duramax diesel-powered vehicles tucked away in storage.

EPA has not responded to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s requests for comment about whether officials are concerned the initial probe into VW opened a can of worms for the auto industry. It has also refused to comment about the validity of the lawsuit against GM.

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