The US Justice Department brought a civil lawsuit against Volkswagen today (Jan. 4) for installing emissions-cheating software in nearly 600,000 cars.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and alleges that the automaker violated multiple sections of the Clean Air Act, including tampering with the cars’ emissions systems and failing to report the illegal activity.
The lawsuit could cost Volkswagen some $90 billion in penalties, based on a maximum fine of $37,500 per vehicle per violation. Earlier estimates of the potential cost of the wrongdoing made when the scandal first broke in September suggested a maximum fine of around $18 billion.
Some 11 million cars from the Volkswagen stable around the world may have the emissions-cheating software installed, the company has said. The scandal has tarnished the automaker’s reputation, savaged its shares, and led to the group’s first quarterly loss in more than 15 years.
For now, the Justice Department has only filed a civil complaint against the company, which does not involve criminal charges or target any specific executives. However, that doesn’t stop it from filing criminal charges against the German car giant down the road.