US expands VW pollution-skirting probe to other carmakers

A man fills in his car's tank with diesel on March 4, 2013 at a petrol station pump in Paris. 60% of cars on French roads are diesel vehicles, due to increased fiscal incentives for this type of engine, which lost 7 billion to the state each year according to the French Court of Auditors. AFP PHOTO THOMAS SAMSON (AFP Photo/Thomas Samson) (AFP/File)

Washington (AFP) - The US government has expanded its investigation of pollution-skirting devices in diesel vehicles to other manufacturers after Volkswagen admitted it used them to thwart US environmental standards.

The Environmental Protection Agency said Monday that it will screen for so-called "defeat devices" in diesel vehicles on the road that are produced by other manufacturers. The California Air Resources Board is a partner in the investigation, an EPA spokesperson said in an email to AFP.

The EPA declined to identify the automakers whose vehicles will be tested.

BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Chevrolet, Jeep and Dodge Ram also sell diesel cars in the United States.

The expanded investigation came in the wake of Friday's announcement by the EPA and the California authorities that Volkswagen, Europe's biggest automaker, had admitted it equipped 482,000 cars in the United States with the illegal defeat devices.

The covert software device cheats US environmental standards by turning off emissions controls when the car is being driven and turning them on only when the car is undergoing an emissions test.

The vehicles affected are four-cylinder VW and Audi diesel cars built since 2008.

Under the US Clean Air Act, fines of up to $37,500 may be imposed on each car, meaning the total VW penalty could exceed $18 billion.

An EPA spokesperson said that the agency had not issued a formal recall for the VW vehicles but expects to "compel" the company to issue a recall to reduce the emissions impacts of those vehicles.

Once Volkswagen and Audi have developed a remedial plan and EPA has approved the plan, owners will be notified of the recall.

"Depending on the complexity of the repair and the lead time needed to obtain the necessary components, it could take up to one year to identify corrective actions, develop a recall plan, and issue recall notices," the spokesperson said.