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Justice Department Starts Criminal Investigation Into Ford’s Fuel Efficiency Testing

ford explorer st

The US Department of Justice opened a criminal investigation into Ford Motor Company’s emissions-certification processes. The investigation focuses on Ford’s road-load estimations and it does not involve the use of defeat devices, similar to what Volkswagen admitted to using to fool government emissions testing.

The road-load estimations are used to determine the fuel efficiency figures as published by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). According to Consumer Reports, it is up to the automakers to set the parameters of the road load, which simulates aerodynamic drag, friction, and tire-related losses on a dynamometer—a device that allows a car to stimulate driving by placing its wheels on rollers.

EPA said that the car manufacturer must set the standards of the road load and they are not necessarily monitored for the correctness of their parameters. However, it is the responsibility of every automaker to ensure that the methods used for measurement conform to EPA standards.

Shannon Baker-Branstetter of Consumer Reports explained that emissions testing is often a “self-certification process” and a lot of small factors, including software settings and modeling assumptions, can make a huge difference in the actual EPA rating of the car.

She explained that automakers sometimes build parameters that are set too close to the tests that during the self-certification process, they make the most favorable and positive assumptions about the results.

The Justice department’s investigation is looking into Ford’s overstatement of fuel mileage on a “large number” of models. Ford said it willingly opened an internal investigation back in February into its emissions testing procedure after employees called the management’s attention on the anomalies in the processes. The company, who voluntarily informed the Justice Department and state and federal agencies about the investigation, said it is cooperating and working closely with government agencies.

“Because this matter is still in the preliminary stages, we cannot predict the outcome, and we cannot provide assurance that it will not have a material adverse effect on us,” a Ford statement said.

The investigation into the emissions testing anomalies is centered on the 2019 Ford Ranger, which went on sale at the beginning of this year.

 

 

EPA Chief Scott Pruitt Steps Down

Scott Pruitt

US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Scott Pruitt, who came under fire earlier for backing President Donald Trump’s decision to lower the standards for vehicle emissions requirements, resigned on Thursday because of an ethics scandal.

Pruitt is favored by the President for rolling back former President Barack Obama’s strict regulations on vehicle emissions. However, he is currently being investigated for travel and security expenses, as well as an expensive condominium arrangement.

President Trump said on Twitter that he has accepted Pruitt’s resignation and that EPA Deputy Administrator Andrew Wheeler will become acting chief of the agency starting on Monday.

Trump said that “Within the Agency[,] Scott has done an outstanding job, and I will always be thankful to him for this.”

Pruitt, a former Oklahoma attorney general, is facing dozens of investigations by the EPA inspector general, the Congress, and the White House. Reports pointed out to his questionable spending on first-class plane tickets, use of security detail, utilization of his office for favors, and connections with lobbyists and industry groups.

A separate report by The Washington Post even said that the former EPA chief pushed to find his wife a well-paying job with another politically-connected group.

The EPA’s inspector general is also being asked to look into reports that Pruitt falsified his official schedule “to hide or remove” records of his meetings and discussions with industry representatives. A CNN interview with US Representatives Don Beyer and Ted Lieu, citing remarks by Kevin Chmielewski, Pruitt’s former deputy chief of staff, said that Pruitt held routine meetings to “scrub, alter or remove from Pruitt’s official calendar numerous records because they might ‘look bad.'”

The representatives said that the allegations are being supported by an inspection of the former EPA chief’s official calendar.

Pruitt became famous for revising the Obama administration’s tighter standards on the model year 2022 to 2025 vehicles.

Was the Audi Chief Sacked Because Of Emissions Cheating Scandal?

rupert stadler

Audi’s chief executive Rupert Stadler stepped down from the management boards of Audi and its parent company, Volkswagen, amid investigations into the emissions cheating scandal that rocked the German company.

Volkswagen’s supervisory board did not suspend Stadler, the company emphasized, but the chief executive asked to step down until allegations against him are clarified. The company held a six-hour meeting on Monday when he was also detained by German prosecutors because he might influence witnesses in the ongoing fraud investigation.

Stadler, 55, is the highest-ranking Volkswagen executive to be arrested in connection to the costly diesel emissions scandal that first went public back in 2015. Last week, the German automaker was asked to pay 1 billion Euros, which Volkswagen did not dispute to show that it is taking responsibility for what happened.

Stadler and some other 19 current or former Audi employees are being investigated for tampering and installing a cheating software in 240,000 diesel cars sold in the United States and Europe. The cars were supposedly installed with a cheating software that would lower emissions only during the test. It would not work during normal car operations.

In a statement, Audi said that it agreed to suspend Stadler “until the circumstances that led to his arrest have been clarified.” He would be considered innocent until proven guilty.

The emissions scandal brought Volkswagen’s shares plunging, and it crushed the confidence of investors, consumers, and regulators in diesel technology. Since the scandal broke, it has already cost Volkswagen more than $30 billion in recalls, penalties, and settlements.

Although the German automaker changed its management and put a major investment in electric cars, it continued to struggle to move away from the issue.

Abraham Schot, Audi Board Member and Sales Chief, was named interim CEO while Stadler remains suspended, according to the statement from Volkswagen. Schot joined the VW Group from Mercedes-Benz Italia back in 2011. He joined the Audi board in September 2017 and is believed to be untainted by the scandal.

Volkswagen Fined 1 Billion Euros For “Dieselgate”

volkswagen dieselgate

Volkswagen has been fined 1 billion Euros ($1.18 billion) by public prosecutors in the German city of Braunschweig, the city close to the company’s Wolfsburg headquarters, over “Dieselgate” or the diesel emissions cheating that saw more than 10.7 million vehicles fitted with “defeat devices.”

The German company said it will pay the fine and would not lodge an appeal against it. The statement added that Volkswagen AG admits “its responsibility” for the diesel crisis “and considers this as a further major step towards the latter being overcome.”

Volkswagen said that the investigation found that “monitoring duties had been breached in the powertrain development department in the context of vehicle tests.” In human language, that means that the diesel cars sold worldwide between 2007 and 2015 have been fitted with the so-called “defeat devices.”

The purpose of these devices is to lower the emissions of cars during testing. However, the devices don’t work when the cars are used during normal driving conditions, meaning that the cars on the road could pump out up to 40 times the allowed amount of pollution.

The 1-billion-Euro penalty is composed of the 5 million Euros that is imposed along with the 995 million Euros for what was described as the “disgorgement of economic benefits,” which simply means the profit earned by Volkswagen for all the mess.

The payment will likely put to end the criminal prosecutions against the German company, but Volkswagen will continue to face the growing number of civil claims from motorists with affected cars, as well as the shareholders of the company. Volkswagen is not alone in what has been dubbed as the “Dieselgate.” Its subsidiaries will also be targeted, as well as luxury carmakers Mercedes-Benz, which already recalled more than 770,000 units, and BMW.

The diesel scandal first broke out in the US, where the company has already paid $25 billion in fines and compensation.

 

 

 

 

 

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