(Bloomberg) — Regulators will add more spot-checks to cars
already on the road as part of a toughening of U.S.
environmental oversight following Volkswagen AG’s admission that
it fitted as many as 11 million diesel cars worldwide with
software that rigged pollution tests.
“We are upping our game,” said Christopher Grundler,
director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of
Transportation and Air Quality.
The U.S. Justice Department is conducting a criminal
investigation of Volkswagen, and the company said it’s
cooperating with regulators. The admission has marred the
reputation of the world’s largest automaker and sent its shares
to the lowest levels in years. Volkswagen’s board is expected to
name a successor Friday to former Chief Executive Officer Martin
Winterkorn, who resigned this week.
The EPA is sending a letter Friday to automakers informing
them that emissions monitoring is being enhanced. Grundler
wouldn’t say what changes the agency will make to audit the lab
results carmakers submit to regulators.
“They don’t need to know,” Grundler, speaking to reporters
on a conference call, said of the automakers. “They only need to
know that we will be keeping their cars a little bit longer, and
we’re going to be driving them more.”
Grundler earlier told the Associated Press that the agency
may add additional on-road testing. It already has on-road
testing ability but it’s been used in recent years to check
carmaker gas mileage estimates and diesel trucks, two situations
in which they had uncovered emissions cheating in the past.
The agency will increase borrowing cars from vehicle owners
for surprise spot checks, making sure the results align with
data automakers submit on their EPA applications, Grundler said.
The agency can also take cars directly off assembly lines for
testing, he said.
The EPA’s ultimate power is to deny car companies a
certificate required to sell their vehicles, Grundler said.
Neither the EPA nor the California Air Resources Board — which
enforces separate state pollution rules — will allow cars on
the market if there’s any doubt they meet the legal
requirements, he said.
“If EPA believes that vehicles are not compliant, we do not
certify them, and they cannot be sold,” Grundler said.
The scandal now engulfing VW, which has admitted to
outfitting cars with software designed to give false readings on
emission tests, is unique both for the number of vehicles
involved, and the digital complexity. But it’s not the first
emissions-cheating case, even for the Wolfsburg, Germany-based
In 1973, the EPA accused the automaker of installing defeat
devices in cars it wanted to sell in the 1974 model year. VW
then admitted it had sold 1973 model year cars with the devices,
which consisted of temperature-sensing switches that cut out
pollution controls at low temperatures.
General Motors Co. agreed in 1995 to pay $45 million after
being accused of circumventing pollution controls on 470,000
Cadillac luxury sedans. The cars’ 4.9-liter V-8 engines were
tuned to turn off pollution controls when the air conditioning
ran, the EPA said at the time.
The current VW case resembles a 1998 case involving seven
manufacturers of heavy-duty truck engines: Caterpillar Inc.,
Cummins Inc., Detroit Diesel Corp., Mack Trucks Inc., Navistar
International Transportation Corp., Renault Vehicules
Industriels, S.A. and Volvo Truck Corp.
The companies agreed to spend more than $1 billion,
including $83.4 million in penalties, to settle the case — the
biggest civil fine to that point for violating an environmental
To contact the reporter on this story:
Jeff Plungis in Washington at
To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Jon Morgan at