Volkswagen enlarges emissions scandal probe: 'Millions' more cars may have cheated

Meanwhile customers lawyer up

Volkswagen has warned that the figure of 11 million cars that cheated in air-pollution tests may be larger than first thought.

The automaker is under fire for using diesel engines that deliberately lowered their output of nitrogen oxides during lab testing to pass strict emissions standards. In real-world use, the cars pumped limit-busting amounts of harmful gasses into the atmosphere.

In a statement on Thursday, the German car manufacturer confirmed that two versions of its diesel engines, the EA 288 EU5 and EU6 models, were free of so-called "defeat devices" designed to fool emissions testers.

Crucially, it is now looking at earlier builds of the engine to see if they also use the dodgy standards-evading software, potentially adding to the 11-million figure.

"I think it is a big problem," Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer, head of the Center for Automotive Research at the University of Duisburg-Essen, told Reuters, saying millions more cars could be defective. "It suggests it doesn't know its product, which is a tragedy."

EA 288 engines are used in the Volkswagen Golf, Volkswagen Beetle, Beetle Convertible, Passat, and Jetta. A representative of Volkswagen America said that none of the firm's cars in the US were covered by the statement.

Volkswagen has warned that recalling and fixing all the cars carrying defeat devices could reach $7bn, but that's just the cost of correcting the vehicle's engine and control software. There are also legal costs to factor in.

The National Law Journal has been keeping an eye on the situation and now estimates that over 300 separate lawsuits are pending against Volkswagen in the US over the incident. Americans are notoriously litigious, however there are fewer than half a million Volkswagens in the US affected by defeat devices. But VW has legal problems in other parts of the world.

There are also government penalties to consider. American car companies are lobbying for the feds to issue a very large fine against Volkswagen, and the EU and Australian governments have also warned of bills to come. ®

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