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.
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.