The judge presiding over a federal-court case between the consumer watchdog and Volkswagen has said he may impose an even bigger fine than the $75 million record amount the two parties agreed to over the “dieselgate” emissions scandal.
Volkswagen is facing several other cases around the world over the scandal, and it’s understood the company wanted to settle with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission without admitting any fault because doing so may hurt its overseas cases.
Justice Lindsay Foster said he was “really outraged” by the compromise.
He said Australians would be “very upset” if they knew the ACCC was letting Volkswagen, the world’s second largest automotive company, get off easy.
He said the agreement of an Australian record $75 million fine between the two parties contained “a bunch of weasel words”, and the ACCC had abandoned large parts of its case against the company in order to secure a deal.
Justice Foster indicated he may increase the eventual fine beyond the agreed amount.
Millions of Volkswagen vehicles around the world were programmed with special software to help them cheat emissions tests, including around 100,000 that were sold in Australia.
The scam began crashing down in 2014 when a research centre at West Virginia University was tasked with demonstrating the benefits of diesel technology, but instead found the Volkswagen diesel vehicles gave off more emissions in real-world driving than they showed in testing.
This caught the attention of the US Environmental Protection Agency, who threatened to deny certification for new diesel models.
Volkswagen responded by admitting it had deliberately cheated emissions tests in September 2015, causing its stock to fall 20 per cent.
Last year, Volkswagen was hit with a €1 billion fine in Germany, and the year before a US judge fined the company US$2.8 billion.
The hearing continues.
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Originally published as Auto giant could face even bigger fine