The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has ordered Volkswagen to recall around half a million vehicles in the U.S. because the automotive company installed illegal software designed to evade EPA regulation in many of their vehicles.
According to the The New York Times, this latent software within numerous Volkswagen vehicles switches on emissions control systems only during an inspection. The vehicles emit up to forty times the pollution limit when not under inspection, which violates the EPA’s Clean Air Act. The vehicles included in the recall are four-cylinder Volkswagen and Audi vehicles from the model years 2009 to 2015.
Martin Winterkorn, the chief executive of the German automaker, was contrite in addressing the public on Sunday. “I personally am deeply sorry that we have broken the trust of our customers and the public,” said the German executive. Volkswagen could face billions in fines for this attempt to shirk American environmental regulation.
According to Ferdinand Dudenhöffer, a professor at the University of Duisburg-Esse, this scandal could spell the end for Winterkorn’s job as top executive for Volkswagen. “The timing is extremely unfortunate,” Dudenhöffer remarked in the Times. In recent years, Professor Dudenhöffer said, the U.S. has held diesel engines to higher standards than those applied by European regulators.
The illegal software conceals the cars’ nitrogen oxide emissions, a pollutant the Times says contributes to the production of ozone and smog. Ozone and smog are associated with a variety of health issues, including “asthma attacks, other respiratory diseases and premature death.”
Disengaging emissions control increases the automobile’s torque and acceleration, which is likely why Volkswagen installed such software in their vehicles.
The recall covers roughly 482,000 diesel passenger cars sold in the United States since 2009. According to the Times, recalled models “include the 2009-15 Volkswagen Jetta, 2009-15 Beetle, 2009-15 Golf, 2014-15 Passat and 2009-15 Audi A3.”