(Reuters) - The U.S. Justice Department has sued Volkswagen AG (VOWG_p.DE) for allegedly violating environmental laws in a case that could cost the German automaker tens of billions of dollars.
Such lawsuits are typically settled at a fraction of the maximum penalty. The civil lawsuit was filed on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The following are outcomes of past cases brought by the EPA against car and truckmakers:
2014: South Korea’s Hyundai Motor Co and affiliate Kia Motors Corp paid a $100 million civil penalty, the highest fine to date for violations of the Clean Air Act. The penalty was based on their sales of more than 1.2 million vehicles that collectively would emit approximately 4.75 million metric tonnes of greenhouse gases in excess of what the automakers certified to the EPA. They also forfeited emissions credits equivalent to their excess emissions estimated to be worth more than $200 million and promised to spend approximately $50 million on measures to prevent any future violations.
2003: Japan’s Toyota Motor Corp settled a case with the EPA and the Justice Department, which had sued it for about $58 billion for violations of the Clean Air Act involving 2.2 million cars. Toyota was accused of having a diagnostics system that failed to provide drivers with a timely alert about problems with the treatment of emissions. Toyota had to pay a fine of $500,000 and bore the costs of modifying school buses and other remedies. The total cost to Toyota was about $34 million.
1998: Seven truckmakers spent a total of more than $1 billion to settle a case with the EPA. Caterpillar, Cummins, Detroit Diesel, Mack Trucks, Navistar, Renault and Volvo were accused of having installed defeat devices in 1.3 million diesel engines. The truckmakers paid a fine of $83.4 million plus costs of more than $850 million for recalls, modernization of old engines and the rollout of new engines.
1998: Japan’s Honda Motor Co Ltd was accused of deactivating misfire monitoring devices in 1.6 million cars. It settled with the EPA at a cost of $267 million, including $250 million for extended guarantees and services and a fine of $12.6 million.
1998: Ford Motor Co spent $7.8 million to settle a case with the EPA, including the payment of $2.5 million in fines. Ford had been accused of installing defeat devices in 60,000 Econoline vans to cut fuel usage, with the result that nitrogen oxide emissions limits were clearly exceeded when driving at high speed.
1995: General Motors settled a case over illegal software allegedly installed in 470,000 Cadillacs at a total cost of $45 million. GM paid a fine of $11 million to the EPA and spent $25 million on a recall. The defeat devices caused carbon monoxide emissions measuring three times the legal limit, according to the EPA.
Reporting by Hans Seidenstuecker; additional reporting by Rory Carroll in San Francisco; writing by Georgina Prodhan; editing by Tom Brown and David Clarke