For many in the auto industry, today is the first day back at work after a multi-week break. For employees of Volkswagen, the day went from bad (by virtue of being Monday) to worse, as the US Department of Justice just filed suit against the automaker.
The US filed a civil complaint today based on the company's deliberate attempts to skirt diesel emissions regulations. In September 2015, Volkswagen admitted to installing defeat devices that curbed nitrogen-oxide emissions in testing situations alone. On the street, the cars were polluting well above legal limits.
The civil suit names several arms of the automaker's business, including Volkswagen, Audi, Volkswagen Group of America, Porsche and Porsche Cars North America.
Federal officials have been in talks with Volkswagen, discussing how the company plans to address the 600,000 or so affected vehicles on US roads. But, according to the press release for the civil suit, "recall discussions with the company have not produced an acceptable way forward. These discussions will continue in parallel with the federal court action."
The statement says, "Today's filing of a civil complaint under Sections 204 and 205 of the Clean Air Act seeks injunctive relief and the assessment of civil penalties." This could include fines and actions that help mitigate additional pollution. Furthermore, the Justice Department could still file criminal charges against the company and its executives.
The specifics of what the US wants out of this suit are yet to be determined. Once a federal court takes up the case, only then can penalties be assessed.
Volkswagen's statement on the matter more or less covers what the automaker has been saying since the scandal broke. "Volkswagen will continue to work cooperatively with the EPA on developing remedies to bring the TDI vehicles into full compliance with regulations as soon as possible," it reads. "In addition, we are working with Kenneth Feinberg to develop an independent, fair and swift process for resolving private consumer claims relating to these issues. We will continue to cooperate with all government agencies investigating these matters."