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EPA orders Volkswagen to recall 500,000 ‘clean diesel’ vehicle in the U.S.

The EPA has announced that it will order Volkswagen to recall 500,000 diesel-powered vehicles sold by the company in the United States. Vehicles that will be included in the recall include 2009 to 2015 diesel-versions of Volkswagen’s Golf, Passat, Jetta, and Beetle cars, as well as the diesel version of the Audi A3. The company has already halted the sale of 2015 and 2016 cars with the diesel engines in the United States.

Before the company issues a recall for the vehicles involved in the emissions issue, Volkswagen will be required to develop a comprehensive plan regarding how it will address the software and fuel efficiency problems with these vehicles. Experts say that whatever technological solution Volkswagen can devise for fixing issues with the 500,000 diesel vehicles, it will most likely mean reducing the performance, drivability, or fuel economy of cars—the very factors that attracted many drivers to Volkswagen’s diesel-powered cars in the first place.

Volkswagen is currently facing a criminal investigation by the Justice Department in connection with potential violations of federal environmental laws regarding the emissions issues with its diesel-powered cars. Officials with the company allegedly told EPA officials that discrepancies between the laboratory and road emissions for its diesel engines were the result of a technical error, statements that the company has now admitted were false.

Experts have stated that the EPA’s ability to force Volkswagen to acknowledge the extent of problems with the company’s diesel-powered vehicles were the result of the agency’s increased regulatory powers compared with those of auto regulators. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is able to impose a maximum fine of $35 million for violations of safety regulations. General Motors, for example, was hit with just such a fine for safety issues with its vehicles that have now been linked to at least 124 deaths.

In contrast, under the Clean Air Act, Volkswagen could be fined by the EPA as much as $37,500 for each of the 500,000 diesel vehicles in the U.S.—a potential fine of as much as $18 billion. However, even with these increased regulatory powers, it still took the EPA a year to bring the truth about Volkswagen’s diesel-powered autos to light.