Timeline of the Volkswagen emissions scandal

The Volkswagen diesel engine emissions scandal broke in September 2015, and is continuing to evolve, affecting about 100,000 Australian consumers and 11 million vehicles worldwide. A snapshot of the key events is below.

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4 May 2018
The United States Department of Justice filed criminal charged against Martin Winterkorn, the Ex-CEO of Volkswagen America.  Winterkorn stepped down within days of the scandal becoming public in September 2015  Winterkorn is charged with four felony counts, including conspiracy to defraud the United States, wire fraud and violating the Clean Air Act.

27 March 2018
The first day of a three day hearing began in the UK High Court in London.  The group action is being brought against the Volkswagen group on behalf of almost 60,000 affected vehicle owners, and concerns almost 1.2m diesel vehicles in the UK manufactured between 2009 and 2015 by Volkswagen brands VW, Seat, Audi and Skoda.  

16 March 2018
The Respondents end their closing submissions with Volkswagen, Audi and Skoda conceding for the first time that these Australian EA189 diesel engine Affected Vehicles would not have passed the relevant Australian (or European) NOx emission test limits without the use of the switching software.

5 March 2018
Class Actions and ACCC proceedings commence stage one trial in Federal Court of Australian in Sydney against Volkswagen, Audi and Skoda seeking determination of preliminary questions. Admissions made at the conclusions of the trial that affected vehicles would not have passed Australian and European emissions standards for NOx without the use of the switching software alleged to be an unlawful defeat device.

28 September 2017

News reports reveal more arrests within the Volkswagen Group. This time, Munich prosecutors arrested a Volkswagen Group executive in connection with the emissions scandal. The executive arrested was Wolfgang Hatz, former Research and Development chief at Porsche and head of powertrain development at Audi and parent Volkswagen.

25 August 2017

A Federal Judge in Detroit, United States sentenced former engineer James Liang to 40 months in prison for his role in the emissions scandal.

Judge Cox, who sentenced Liang, said he was part of a long-term conspiracy that perpetrated a “stunning fraud on the American consumer…This is a very serious and troubling crime against our economic system.”

Liang was also ordered to pay a fine of $US 200 000 ($AU 256 205). This sum was ten times the amount sought by Federal Prosecutors.

4 August 2017

Oliver Schmidt, the former top emissions compliance manager for Volkswagen in the United States, pleaded guilty for his role in the emissions scandal. Schmidt will still face up to 7 years in prison and a fine of between $US 40,000-$400,000 ($AU51 241 – 512 409).

In announcing the formal plea, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Williams said “Schmidt participated in a fraudulent VW scam that prioritized corporate sales at the expense of the honesty of emissions tests and trust of the American purchasersSchmidt along with each and every official involved in this emissions scandal will be held fully accountable for their actions by the Department of Justice as this investigation continues.”

7 July 2017

News reports reveal Munich prosecutors arrested an Audi employee on suspicion of fraud and false advertising in connection with the emissions scandal. The employee arrested is reportedly former Manager Giovanni Pamio who is also the subject of a U.S. Justice Department criminal complaint. German privacy laws mean prosecutors will not fully identify suspects.

This arrest was part of a wider probe, and came after raids coordinated by prosecutors.

6 July 2017

The United States Department of Justice officially announced a former Audi manager had been charged via criminal complaint for his role in the “long-running conspiracy” to defraud U.S. regulators and consumers with defeat device software. Giovanni Pamio, 60, was charged with conspiracy to defraud the U.S., wire fraud, and violation of the Clean Air Act.

17 May 2017

Judge Breyer formally approved settlements in relation to 3.0L vehicles in the United States. The settlement agreements will see affected vehicle owners compensated and given the choice of a repair or buyback. 

6 February 2017

The Luxembourg Government officially announced it had filed a criminal complaint in connection with the type approval of Audi vehicles fitted with defeat devices. The suit is for forgery, fraudulent use and deceit. In the same announcement, the Government listed 13 other measures it had taken in response to the emissions scandal, including the recall of affected vehicles and legislation to sanction manufacturers for fraud. Luxembourg’s Infrastructure Ministry described itself as “a victim of criminal action that led it to certify cars” saying it would not have done so had the tests not been falsified.

11 January 2017

A United States Federal grand jury indicted six Volkswagen executives and employees for their roles in the emissions scandal. In announcing the indictments, Deputy Attorney General Yates said, “This wasn’t simply the action of some faceless, multinational corporation…This conspiracy involved flesh-and-blood individuals who used their positions within Volkswagen to deceive both regulators and consumers. From the start of this investigation, we’ve been committed to ensuring that those responsible for criminal activity are held accountable. We’ve followed the evidence—from the showroom to the boardroom—and it brought us to the people whose indictments we’re announcing today.”

11 January 2017

Volkswagen pleaded guilty in the United States to criminal charges and agreed to pay $US4.3 ($5.7) billion in fines. Six high level employees of Volkswagen from Germany were charged, and at least 40 further employees were allegedly involved in destroying evidence.

9 January 2017

Oliver Schmidt, the former top emissions compliance manager for Volkswagen in the United States, was charged by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) with conspiracy to defraud the United States over the company’s diesel emissions scandal.  Mr Schmidt is said to have played a central role in trying to convince US regulators that excess emissions were caused by technical problems rather than by deliberate cheating.

23 December 2016

A US federal judge said Volkswagen AG has reached an agreement in principle to provide "substantial compensation" to the American owners of about 80,000 3-litre polluting diesel vehicles, with the final agreement to be filed in the Courts by 31 January 2017.

8 December 2016

Germany’s Motor Transport Authority, the KBA, confirm they are investigating whether Volkswagen’s sportscar brand Porsche used software to disguise exhaust emissions.  The KBA said it was examining software to see whether it could detect whether the car was being subjected to laboratory tests, using this information to switch to a less polluting emissions pattern than would occur under normal driving conditions.  The KBA is already conducting a similar investigation into VW’s Audi brand, which supplies diesel engines to Porsche.

7 December 2016

South Korean authorities impose a 37.3 billion Won ($32 million) fine on Volkswagen AG in South Korea for false advertising, and file criminal complaints against five former and current executives.    

5 December 2016

U.S authorities travelled to Germany to arrange interviews with Volkswagen Group managers and seek cooperation for their probe into Volkswagen’s effort to subvert anti-pollution rules, while dozens of Volkswagen AG officials in Germany hire U.S criminal defence lawyers.

In Europe, the European Union takes action against seven nations, including Germany and Great Britain for failing to police car emissions rules, after the Dieselgate scandal showed suspicious behaviour in the industry.  The European Commission is resorting to the strongest legal action it can take against members, potentially ending in court.

28 November 2016

The Respondents filed Defences in the Australian class action proceedings, in which they continued to deny that the affected diesel vehicles contain a defeat device, or that they engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct.

6 November 2016

Volkswagen Supervisory Board Chairman, Hans Dieter Poestch under investigation by prosecutors in Braunschweig, Germany for alleged market manipulation in relation to the defeat device scandal.  He is the second current board member to be investigated.

25 October 2016

Judge Breyer formally approves the Amended Consumer Class Action Settlement in the U.S which will see affected US vehicle owners and lessees receive a compensation payment or have Volkswagen ‘buy back’ their vehicle.

21 October 2016

Maurice Blackburn amend the class action lawsuit against Volkswagen, Audi and Skoda to also seek an account of profits earned that are attributable to the Respondents’ misrepresentations.  The class action was also extended to include motorists who acquired an interest in an affected vehicle on or before 3 October 2015 (when the announcement was made regarding affected Australian vehicles) and still held their interest as at that date.

9 September 2016

Volkswagen engineer, James Liang, pleads guilty to helping Volkswagen to cheat on emissions tests. Mr Liang is the first person criminally convicted in the United States in relation to the diesel emissions scandal.

6 September 2016

Paul Fogarty, lawyer for Volkswagen AG, walked out of an Irish court during a hearing to protest against a judge's decision to hear evidence before a jurisdictional issue is decided.

1 September 2016

The ACCC files proceedings against Volkswagen Group Australia and its German parent company, Volkswagen AG, in the Federal Court of Australia over the diesel emissions scandal in relation to 1.6 and 2.0 litre Volkswagen vehicles. The ACCC believes Volkswagen engaged in extraordinary conduct of a serious and deliberate nature, by misleading consumers and the Australian public.

17 August 2016

The Australian Automobile Association calls on the Volkswagen Group to explain why Australian customers are less important than those in the US, and for the Australian Government to commit to real-world testing of new vehicles. 

8 August 2016

Italy's Anti-Trust Agency fines Volkswagen 5 million euros for allegedly misinforming car buyers about diesel emissions results.

7 July 2016

The Federal Court of Australia orders Volkswagen, Audi and Skoda to supply more information about emissions results and how its diesel emissions cheating software works.

29 June 2016

Volkswagen Group settles emissions scandal litigation with nearly 500,000 US diesel owners and government regulators, but does not do so for Australian consumers and regulators

22 June 2016

Matthias Mueller, chief executive of Volkswagen, apologises to shareholders over the emissions scandal at the first annual general meeting since the scandal broke.

29 April 2016

The Federal Court of Australia expresses its frustration with the behaviour of Volkswagen, Audi and Skoda for treating Australia as a 'backwater', not a longstanding democracy with a highly sophisticated judicial system.

28 April 2016

Matthias Mueller, chief executive of Volkswagen, personally apologises to US President Obama.

28 April 2016

Media reports reveal that authorities consider non-compliant affected Australian vehicles could be taken off the roads.

22 April 2016

Volkswagen AG refuses to release the results of its independent investigation conducted by US law firm Jones Day, despite previously stating that Volkswagen AG would "cooperate fully with the responsible agencies, with transparency and urgency, to clearly, openly, and completely establish all of the facts of this case".

2 March 2016

EU politicians begin a year-long inquiry into the Volkswagen Group and vehicle regulation.

27 January 2016

European Union (‘EU’) Commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska states, “Let us be clear: defeat devices are already banned under EU law and national authorities have a standing obligation to police and enforce this ban.”

4 January 2016

The US Department of Justice files a complaint on behalf of the EPA against Volkswagen AG, Audi AG, Volkswagen Group of America Inc., Volkswagen Group of America Chattanooga Operations LLC, Porsche AG, and Porsche Cars North America, Inc. for alleged violations of the Clean Air Act.

19 November 2015

Maurice Blackburn files a class action lawsuit seeking fair compensation from Volkswagen, Audi and Skoda, including the international parent companies as well as the Australian subsidiaries for all Australian owners of affected vehicles.

2 November 2015

The US EPA issues a second ‘Notice of Violation’ to Volkswagen AG, Audi AG, Volkswagen Group of America, Inc., Porsche AG and Porsche Cars North America. The EPA informs VW Group the defeat device in affected 3.0L vehicles for model years 2014 – 2016 increases emissions of nitrogen oxide up to nine times the US EPA’s standard.

9 October 2015
Volkswagen Australia, Audi Australia and Skoda announce a voluntary product safety recall of affected diesel vehicles.

7 October 2015 

Australian Federal Minister for Territories, Local Government and Major Projects, Paul Fletcher, states a total of 91,177 vehicles have been sold in Australia, comprising 14,028 Audi vehicles; 54,745 VW passenger vehicles; 5,148 Skoda vehicles and 17,256 VW commercial vehicles. Two days later this increased by over 6,000 vehicles. 

3 October 2015 

Volkswagen Australia suspends the sale of affected diesel vehicles fitted with 1.6 or 2.0L diesel engines. The suspension is to remain until the emission issues are addressed in those vehicles.

1 October 2015 

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Chairman Rod Sims states the ACCC is conducting an enforcement investigation into the Volkswagen Group for possible use of defeat devices. 

25 September 2015 

Australian Federal Minister for Territories, Local Government and Major Projects, Paul Fletcher,  announces the Australian Government has sought urgent clarification from Volkswagen Australia and Audi Australia as to whether defeat devices were being used in vehicles in Australia.

25 September 2015 

The Board of Volkswagen release a statement claiming “there is absolutely no excuse for the manipulations which have deeply shocked Volkswagen”, also announcing an internal investigation, the suspension of some employees, and making explicit reference to “unlawful behaviour of engineers and technicians.”

23 September 2015 

Professor Winterkorn states he is "shocked by the events of the past few days (and)... stunned that misconduct on such a scale was possible in the Volkswagen Group", and that he would stand down as Volkswagen AG CEO.

22 September 2015 

Volkswagen AG announces approximately 11 million vehicles are affected by the defeat device worldwide.

20 September 2015 

Volkswagen AG CEO Prof. Martin Winterkorn apologises in response to the US EPA and California Air Resources Board (CARB) findings.

18 September 2015

The US EPA issue a ‘Notice of Violation’ of the Clean Air Act to Volkswagen AG, Audi AG, and Volkswagen Group of America, Inc. alleging that model year 2009 – 2015 Volkswagen and Audi diesel cars equipped with 2.0 litre engines - approximately 499,000 vehicles in the US - are fitted with ‘defeat device’ software designed to circumvent emissions standards for nitrogen oxides. Volkswagen Group of America responds by releasing a statement  stating that the company is “committed to fixing this issue,” and “we are working to develop a remedy that meets emissions standards.”

15 May 2014 

As part of ongoing investigations by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), independent researchers at the Center for Alternative Fuels Engines and Emissions (CAFEE) in West Virginia, USA, publish a study that reveals Oxides of Nitrogen (NOx) emissions from Volkswagen vehicles exceed the maximum levels permitted.  Armed with this information, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) commence an investigation.


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