The Volkswagen logo is displayed as people gather at the Los Angeles Auto Show, Nov. 20, 2013, in Los Angeles, Calif. 
Photo by Jae C. Hong/AP

Political spotlight shines on Volkswagen scandal

Updated
All In with Chris Hayes, 9/22/15, 8:37 PM ET

Volkswagen reeling after worldwide deception

Under pressure from the EPA, Volkswagen has admitted that their clean diesel cars have been systematically, proactively engineered to deceive emissions testing, involving 11 million vehicles worldwide.
On Monday, Americans learned that Volkswagen orchestrated an international scam, putting 11 million cars on the road designed to deliberately circumvent emissions standards. On Tuesday, Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush announced his plans to loosen environmental safeguards to make things easier on polluters.
 
Yes, once in a while, political and non-political stories intersect in surprisingly interesting ways.
 
The political salience of the VW scandal is increasingly acute. While Bush was inexplicably arguing that it’s time to scrap a variety of environmental regulations, Hillary Clinton was describing the Volkswagen debacle as “outrageous.” The Democrat added, “When companies put profits ahead of safety and the environment, there should be consequences.”
 
She’s not the only Democrat thinking along these lines.
Sen. Bill Nelson, in a scathing speech on the Senate floor, said Tuesday the latest scandal involving deceptive auto industry practices should result in criminal charges and regulatory reform. […]
 
Nelson said it was time for jail terms, not fines.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) also called yesterday for the Justice Department to conduct a “full and thorough” investigation into the allegations surrounding the German automaker.
 
If you’re new to the story, MSNBC’s Chris Hayes had a segment on this last night that’s well worth your time. Vox’s overview piece yesterday was also helpful in explaining why this may be one of the worst examples of corporate fraud in recent memory.
It sounds like the sinister plot of some straight-to-DVD movie. Since 2009, Volkswagen had been installing elaborate software in 482,000 “clean diesel” vehicles sold in the US, so that the cars’ pollution controls only worked when being tested for emissions. The rest of the time, the vehicles could freely spew hazardous, smog-forming compounds.
 
Suffice to say, regulators were livid once they caught on. Last Friday, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that Volkswagen had very flagrantly violated the Clean Air Act. Not only did the EPA order the German firm to fix the affected vehicles — which include diesel TDI versions of the Golf, Jetta, Beetle, and Passat — but the agency could end up levying fines as high as $18 billion. The Department of Justice is also contemplating criminal charges.
 
The scandal has only widened from there. On Tuesday, Volkswagen admitted that some 11 million clean diesel cars sold worldwide contain “defeat devices” meant to fool regulators, with the vast majority of cars likely to be in Europe.
Volkswagen stands to lose billions, outside of possible criminal penalties, and its stock price has steadily collapsed over the last five days.
 
 

Auto Industry , Environment and EPA

Political spotlight shines on Volkswagen scandal

Updated