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Another diesel exhaust cheat scheme, this time with Mercedes-Benz

Volkswagen, Fiat Chrysler past culprits

SHARE Another diesel exhaust cheat scheme, this time with Mercedes-Benz
In this Dec. 16, 2014 photo, the exterior of the Mercedes-Benz corporate headquarters is shown in Montvale, N.J.

Tyson Trish, AP

SALT LAKE CITY — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Justice announced Monday the agencies had reached a proposed settlement agreement with another automobile manufacturer over installation of so-called defeat devices that allow vehicles to cheat emission testing.

Under the proposed settlement, filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Daimler will recall and repair the emissions systems in Mercedes-Benz diesel vehicles sold in the United States between 2009 and 2016 and pay $875 million in civil penalties and roughly $70.3 million in other penalties. 

It’s unclear if states will receive any of these funds in the latest case, which still has to be approved by the federal court.

Other provisions include the replacement of 15 old locomotive engines with cleaner burning engines that will spread the resultant air quality benefit from coast to coast.

Overall, the $1.3 billion negotiation represents the largest per-vehicle settlement agreement reached in the history of the Clean Air Act, with the manufacturer agreeing to pay an estimated $3,700 per vehicle to institute a fix to the onboard computer system.

“The message we are sending today is clear: We will enforce the law,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “And if you try to cheat the system and mislead the public, you will be caught. Those who violate the public trust in pursuit of profits will forfeit both.”

The settlement mandates the company extend the warranty period for certain parts in the repaired vehicles, perform projects to mitigate excess ozone-creating nitrogen oxides (NOx) emitted from the vehicles, and implement new internal audit procedures designed to prevent future cheating. The recall program and federal mitigation project are expected to cost the company about $436 million.

The company will pay another $110 million to fund mitigation projects in California as the California Air Resources Board was part of the settlement.

Officials said agencies began testing of Mercedes-Benz vehicles after Volkswagen was caught using the software.

As part of that 2016 settlement, the company agreed to pay $2.8 billion to the states to reduce diesel pollution, with Utah receiving nearly $40 million.

The funds were to offset the nitrogen oxide emissions for 7,000 VW, Audi and Porsche vehicles in Utah affected by VW’s violations.

Assistant Attorney General Jeff Clark made clear in Monday’s briefing that the EPA will continue to use innovative testing to find automobile manufacturers that use these cheat devices.

“It is not possible to hide behind millions of lines of code; we will find it,” he said.