Engineer Pleads to VW Emissions Scandal

     DETROIT (CN) — A Volkswagen engineer pleaded guilty Friday for participating in the German automaker’s nearly 10-year conspiracy to cheat U.S. emissions testing.
     A federal grand jury indicted James Robert Liang, 62, of Newbury Park, California, under seal this past June.
     Those charges were unsealed today with Liang’s plea to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, to commit wire fraud and to violate the Clean Air Act.
     U.S. District Judge Sean Cox is presiding over the case in the Eastern District of Michigan.
     The plea agreement shows that Liang worked for VW’s diesel development department in Wolfsburg, Germany, from 1983 until May 2008. Liang moved that year to California, working at VW’s testing facility in Oxnard, California.
     While still in Germany in 2006, Liang conspired with others on a new “EA 189” diesel engine that Volkswagen would sell in the United States.
     Upon realization that the diesel engine would not conform to strict U.S. emissions standards, the co-conspirators created software that would cheat U.S. emissions testing.
     Liang moved to the United States in 2008 to help VW launch its new “clean diesel” vehicles in the United States, holding the title of “leader of diesel competence” while working in Oxnard.
     VW employees met with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to certify each model year of vehicle for U.S. markets.
     During one such meeting that Liang personally attended, “his co-conspirators misrepresented that VW diesel vehicles complied with U.S. emissions standards and hid the existence of the defeat device from U.S. regulators,” Liang admitted, as quoted in a press release about the plea.
     “As part of the certification process for each new model year, including model years 2009 through 2016, the co-conspirators continued to falsely and fraudulently certify to EPA and CARB that VW diesel vehicles met U.S. emissions standards and complied with the Clean Air Act,” the announcement continues. “Liang admitted that during this time, he and his co-conspirators knew that VW marketed its diesel vehicles to the U.S. public as ‘clean diesel’ and environmentally friendly, and promoted the increased fuel economy. Liang and his co-conspirators knew that these representations were false and that VW’s diesel vehicles were not ‘clean.'”
     An independent study commissioned by the International Council on Clean Transportation triggered concerns that diesel vehicles’ emissions on the road were up to 40 times higher than shown in testing.
     Once regulators agencies started raising questions about the vehicles’ on-road performance, the VW co-co-conspirators continued to lie to the EPA, CARB and VW customers, Liang admitted.
     Volkswagen signed off on a $14.7 billion settlement with the United States, California and a nationwide class of consumers. The landmark settlement won tentative approval in July.

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