WASHINGTON, DC – After efforts from U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Edward Markey (D-MA), the Department of Justice (DOJ) today announced a civil suit against Volkswagen over the company’s use of emissions-cheating software to skirt federal emissions tests. Klobuchar and Blumenthal sent a letter to the DOJ in September urging the agency to take strong civil and criminal actions against Volkswagen for any violations following the German carmaker’s actions that misled hundreds of thousands of American consumers and resulted in tens of thousands of tons of additional pollution emissions.

“With every rigged emissions test, Volkswagen harmed public health, polluted our air, and deceived American consumers,” Klobuchar said. “We cannot let this stand. That is why Senator Blumenthal and I called on the Department of Justice to take strong actions against Volkswagen, and today’s civil action makes clear that this kind of deliberate deception will not be tolerated by the American public.”

“A civil complaint is a positive step, but the Department of Justice also must vigorously pursue criminal charges against Volkswagen executives who knowingly ignored federal emissions standards, deceived regulators and poured untold amounts of toxins into the air we breathe,” Blumenthal said. “I call on the Justice Department to make sure Volkswagen executives are held accountable for their complicity in this purposeful deception.”

"Volkswagen should be held accountable to the fullest extent possible for illegally using defeat devices to mislead consumers and cheat emissions controls,” Markey said.  “I am pleased that the Department of Justice continues to pursue civil charges against the company, and I believe criminal charges should also be brought in light of Volkswagen’s deception. The administration also should reverse any fuel economy or other benefits Volkswagen might have enjoyed as a result of its illegal behavior.” 

Klobuchar has been a leader in the U.S. Senate in protecting consumers and holding those responsible for wrongdoing accountable. Following these revelations, Klobuchar called on Volkswagen to take immediate action to address issues caused by its deceptive diesel emissions testing process. She urged the company to issue a recall that was comprehensive and covered all affected models and years, execute a robust public awareness campaign, and develop a process through which customers can be compensated for the costs of reduced fuel economy and lower resale values. After a call to action from Klobuchar, the EPA announced changes to its diesel emissions testing process. In addition, Klobuchar took to the Senate floor to urge the EPA to explain why its emission standards approval process did not detect this deceptive software and call on the agency to establish robust safeguards to prevent automakers from gaming the system again.

The full text of Klobuchar and Blumenthal’s letter from September is below:

Dear Attorney General Lynch:

We write to you today deeply concerned about Volkswagen’s willful evasion of U.S. emission standards on nearly 500,000 Model Year 2009-2015 Volkswagen and Audi diesel passenger vehicles. Volkswagen developed and installed a “defeat device” in these vehicles, which artificially lowered emission standards, deceiving consumers and endangering public health.

According to The Guardian, Volkswagen’s actions resulted in the emission of tens of thousands of tons of additional pollution. Just as important, Volkswagen appears to have misled hundreds of thousands of customers about the car they were purchasing.

The notice of violation of the Clean Air Act issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) indicates that Volkswagen has been installing defeat devices to specifically circumvent environmental testing in some of their diesel vehicles since 2009 and continued to do so through 2015 models. Such a blatant violation of the Clean Air Act must be met with an appropriately strong response.

We are particularly concerned that Volkswagen and individual executives appear to have made multiple false statements to the government, which would violate 18 USC Sec. 1001. Officials at Volkswagen should be granted no get out of jail free card, and the Department should accept no plea agreement with Volkswagen that does not ensure any and all information regarding criminal acts by high level officials is provided to the Department.

We urge the Department of Justice’s criminal investigations to be thorough but expeditious. Additionally, we encourage the Department of Justice, in coordination with other agencies, to take strong civil and criminal actions against Volkswagen and any individual for any violations.

The recent criminal and deceptive actions by some automakers is unacceptable. The U.S. government needs to make it clear that these actions, whether involving safety defects, consumer deception, or regulatory violations, will not be tolerated by the American public.

Thank you for your attention to this matter and we look forward to your full and thorough investigation.