Volkswagen engineer from Southern California pleads guilty in US in emissions scandal – Los Angeles Times
A longtime Volkswagen engineer has pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy in a U.S. court for his role in the German automaker’s global emissions cheating scandal.
James Robert Liang, 62, a Newbury Park, Calif. resident, entered his plea Friday. As part of the plea agreement, Liang will cooperate with the government in its ongoing investigation, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a statement.
The plea agreement describes a conspiracy that spans nearly 10 years.
Liang had worked in Volkswagen AG’s diesel development department in Wolfsburg, Germany, starting in 1983. In 2006, he and his “co-conspirators” started work on a new diesel engine for U.S. vehicles, the plea agreement says. When they realized they could not design one that would adhere to the strict U.S. emissions standards, they then created and implemented so-called “defeat devices” — software that could recognize when cars were being tested “in order to cheat” the tests, according to the plea agreement.
In a statement released Friday, the Justice Department said Liang admitted to using the software while working on the diesel engine and “assisted in making the defeat device work.”
In 2008, Liang transferred to the U.S. to help launch Volkswagen’s new “clean diesel” vehicles, according to the plea agreement. While working at VW’s test facility in Oxnard, he served as “leader of diesel competence.”
According to the plea agreement, Liang said he and his co-conspirators “misrepresented” that the VW diesel vehicles met U.S. emissions standards during certification meetings for new cars with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board and “hid the existence of the defeat device from regulators.”
Liang and his co-conspirators continued to lie to the EPA and state Air Resources Board, even after regulatory agencies started to raise questions about the vehicles’ performance, the plea agreement says.
The scandal erupted last September when the Air Resources Board and the EPA said they had discovered the software in certain 2-liter VW diesel vehicles. In regular driving, they said, the vehicles spew up to 40 times the legally allowed amount of nitrogen oxide.
Regulators later said the defeat devices were also installed in some Volkswagen and Audi 3-liter diesel vehicles as well.
Liang was indicted under seal on June 1 by a federal grand jury. The indictment was unsealed Friday. The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Sean Cox of the Eastern District of Michigan.
Volkswagen said in a statement that it is “continuing to cooperate with the U.S. Department of Justice,” but couldn’t comment on the indictment.
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10 a.m.: This article was updated with additional information about the plea agreement.
8:55 a.m.: This article was updated throughout with staff reporting.
This article was originally published at 8:20 a.m.