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Congress panel to look into Volkswagen emissions trickery

By Doug G. Ware
A congressional panel will convene to look into allegations German automaker Volkswagen installed software on nearly 500,000 diesel-powered vehicles sold in the U.S. between 2009 and 2015 that deliberately circumvented emissions regulations. Photo by Brian Kersey/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/edbe5c66177a239f55fa6c9a0ec377c3/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
A congressional panel will convene to look into allegations German automaker Volkswagen installed software on nearly 500,000 diesel-powered vehicles sold in the U.S. between 2009 and 2015 that deliberately circumvented emissions regulations. Photo by Brian Kersey/UPI | License Photo

DETROIT, Sept. 21 (UPI) -- A congressional panel will convene in the near future to investigate what appears to be a deliberate plan by Volkswagen to get around U.S. emissions regulations for nearly a half-million of its vehicles with diesel engines.

On Friday, the German automaker received a notice of violation of the U.S. Clean Air Act. The Environmental Protection Agency said the affected Volkswagen vehicles were equipped with software that lowered emissions to legal levels during standard emissions tests. Before and after the tests, though, the vehicles' emissions would remain at illegal levels.

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The investigative panel was announced Monday by Michigan Rep. Fred Upton, who chairs the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee.

"Strong emissions standards are in place for the benefit of public health. Manufacturers throughout the United States, and across the world, have developed leading technologies to reduce airborne emissions within the limits set by EPA and state environmental agencies," Upton said in a news release. "However, reported EPA allegations that certain Volkswagen models contained software to defeat auto emissions tests raise serious questions."

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Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Tim Murphy, R-Pa., joined Upton in making the announcement.

"We are also concerned that auto consumers may have been deceived -- that what they were purchasing did not come as advertised," the news release continued. "The American people deserve answers and assurances that this will not happen again. We intend to get those answers."

Exactly when the panel will convene was not known.

Volkswagen, meanwhile, has placed a freeze on all sales of its diesel-powered vehicles in the United States.

The EPA said Friday that 482,000 Volkswagen and Audi vehicles between model year 2009 and 2015 contained the deceptive software.

"The Board of Management at Volkswagen AG takes these findings very seriously," Volkswagen AG CEO Martin Winterkorn said. "I personally am deeply sorry that we have broken the trust of our customers and the public."

Volkswagen plans to recall the affected vehicles and said it is cooperating with the investigation.

Volkswagen stock fell during trading Monday, finishing down 18 percent to $132.20 per share -- a drop of $30.20 Monday. Some analysts have said the automaker could face nearly $20 billion in financial penalties.

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