Car Industry

Court makes example of VW engineer, sentences him to 40 months

He must also pay $200,000 in fines, more than 10 times what prosecutors wanted.

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If you happen to be an automotive engineer who thinks he can pull one over on the US government, the sentencing of a Volkswagen engineer might change your mind.

A federal judge sentenced James Liang, a former Volkswagen engineer, to a 40-month prison term, Reuters reports, for his part in VW's Dieselgate scandal. He must also pay $200,000 in fines, which is 10 times what the feds wanted originally.

Getting 40 months is better than 60. It could have been worse.

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US District Court Judge Sean Cox went a little heavy on the sentence because, according to Reuters, "[the judge] hoped the prison sentence and fine would deter other auto industry engineers and executives from similar schemes." Liang can still appeal the sentence, which came after he pleaded guilty earlier this year.

According to federal rules, Liang could have been sentenced to as much as five years in prison, but he was given a bit of a reprieve because he'd cooperated with the federal investigation into the Dieselgate scandal.

Volkswagen did not immediately return a request for comment, but the company declined comment to Reuters.

Volkswagen ended up in this mess because it admitted to installing illegal software workarounds in millions of its diesel vehicles around the world. The software curbed diesel tailpipe emissions during testing, only to have the vehicles pollute well in excess of legal limits once on the road. Researchers at the University of West Virginia originally uncovered the deception.

Since then, Volkswagen has been ordered to spend some $25 billion in the US alone on a mix of owner restitution, buybacks and promotion of alternative-energy vehicles.