Levying a fine is a great way for a government to send a message, but when your fine is a ridiculously small percentage of what others are forcing a miscreant to pay, it will hardly resonate as strongly as intended. Volkswagen recently finalized a $15 billion settlement in the US for its diesel issues, so the $5.5 million fine coming from Italy seems eminently affordable.
Italy's anti-trust agency hit Volkswagen with that fine, Reuters reports, specifically for misleading car buyers about its true diesel emissions. That's the highest fine the magnificently named Autorità Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato can impose, but it amounts to about one third of one tenth of 1 percent of that $15 billion settlement. VW faced similar scrutiny from the US Federal Trade Commission, which attacked the automaker for advertising "clean" diesels that were really just cheating diesels.
Volkswagen did not immediately return a request for comment, but it told Reuters that it plans to challenge the Italian fine in court. The automaker continues to stress that it is working with all relevant agencies to bring the matter to a close.
If you've been living under a rock for the last year, Volkswagen is in trouble for lying about its diesel emissions. Its 2.0-liter TDI vehicles were equipped with special software that could curb emissions while being tested, only to have the vehicles pollute well above legal limits once out on the road.
Volkswagen's $15 billion settlement includes the option for the automaker to buy back customer cars. Buyers can keep their cars as-is, but VW will need to either repair or buy back a certain number of its US diesels. That program is expected to start later this year.