Vol. XL No. 2

Won’t Get Fooled Again: Why VW’s Emissions Deception Is Illegal in Europe and How to Improve the EU’s Auto Regulatory System

Abstract: Replete with greed, hubris, and deceit, the Volkswagen emissions scandal is not your typical case of corporate wrongdoing. With a price tag of $20 million in the United States, it is already one of the most expensive corporate scandals in history and has caused significant damage to the environment, public health, and the global economy. Dieselgate has had a majorly disproportionate impact on Europe, where nearly nine million of the eleven million affected cars are located. The financial cost of the scandal, however, has been confined almost entirely to the United States, due to a European Union (EU) regulation that allows automakers to change their cars’ performance settings before emissions tests. This Note argues that this regulation, though considered a loophole by some, is not an escape hatch for European car manufacturers. Thus, it argues that Volkswagen’s use of defeat-device software violates EU law. With an eye toward preventing similar scandals in the future, it also recommends ways in which the EU can improve its auto regulatory system, and identifies the costs of allowing Volkswagen’s misconduct to go unpunished in Europe.

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