How deep does the Volkswagen emissions scandal go?

A second notice of violation from the Environmental Protection Agency suggests that the Volkswagen's emissions cheating scheme is even more pervasive than previously thought.

Michaela Rehle/Reuters/File
Martin Winterkorn, President and chief executive officer of Porsche Automobil Holding SE poses next to a Porsche Cayenne Diesel before the annual shareholders meeting of Porsche in Stuttgart, June 17, 2011. On Monday, US environmental regulators said Volkswagen AG had installed emissions-control cheating devices in diesel luxury vehicles in model years 2014 through 2016. Among the diesel models officials named as being in violation of US laws are the Porsche Cayenne sport utility vehicle.

The Environmental Protection Agency has slapped Volkswagen with additional emissions-cheating charges, pulling the automaker’s luxury brands Porsche and Audi into the global scandal.

In its investigation, the EPA found that certain 2014-2016 Volkswagen, Audi, and Porsche models with 3.0-liter engines come with software designed to cheat on emissions testing, the agency said in a letter posted Monday on its website.

The revelations raise questions about the extent of the company’s response to the scandal that broke in September after the EPA charged Volkswagen for defeating emissions regulations for four-cylinder diesel engines on 11 million vehicles worldwide – including about 500,000 in the United States.

Volkswagen chief executive officer Martin Winkerhorn admitted to and apologized for the use of defeat devices in four-cylinder engines in late September, but the EPA says that the company installed similar devices in its six-cylinder vehicles as well.

“VW has once again failed in its obligation to comply with the law that protects clean air for all Americans,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator of EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, in a statement Monday.

The latest violation notice charges Volkswagen with installing software that turns on pollution controls when testing begins for six-cylinder diesel engines. The program causes the cars to emit less nitrogen oxide – a smog-causing pollutant – by operating at high exhaust temperatures, according to the EPA. As soon as the first phase of the test ends, however, the cars go back to normal operation.

The allegations tie the cheating scandal to 10,000 new vehicles in the US, potentially exposing Volkswagen to more than $375 million in Clean Air Act penalties in addition to the $18 billion the company might already incur from the original diesel car violations, USA Today reports.

More than money, the scandal could cost Volkswagen – which “has long enjoyed a reputation for reliable engineering, cheerful affordability, and, largely thanks to its efforts in clean diesel, sustainability,” as the Monitor’s Schuyler Velasco reports – the confidence of consumers who are increasingly conscientious when it comes to their product choices.

“There’s an increased attention to more intangible characteristics of a product,” Dutch Leonard, a professor who teaches corporate responsibility and risk management at Harvard Business School, told the Monitor. “When I buy a shirt, it has a particular color, it’s soft, or wrinkle-free. But now people are also paying attention to where it was made, if the workers are being exploited, and if the company is environmentally conscious or not.”

The latest violations cover models including the 2014 Touareg, 2015 Porsche Cayenne, and a number of 2016 Audi models.

This report contains material from Reuters and the Associated Press.

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