Timeline of international enforcement activities against Volkswagen

Since Volkswagen’s global emissions scandal, otherwise known as “dieselgate,” became public in 2014, Canada has taken no action to prosecute VW.

This timeline illustrates the strong actions taken by some countries to show that Canada has, so far, failed to address this shocking environmental crime. This timeline will be updated as enforcement proceedings unfold.

UPDATE: Canada charged and prosecuted Volkswagen in January 2020, imposing a fine of $196.5 million, the largest fine ever imposed in Canada. While this is great news, the VW investigation exposed a number of glaring problems in Canada’s environmental enforcement.

Study reveals discrepancy between actual and reported VW diesel emissions

May 1, 2014

Researchers discovered that VW reported lower emissions of toxic nitrogen oxides (NOx) in a lab setting compared to the actual emissions. On the road emissions were 35 times higher than permitted by Canadian regulations.

U.S. files a notice of violation against VW

September 18, 2015

U.S. EPA issues a notice of violation alleging that VW and Audi diesel vehicles from 2009-2015 with 2.0 L engine included the cheat devices.

VW admits to rigging vehicles

September 22, 2015

VW admits that it installed cheat devices in 11 million diesel vehicles sold worldwide.

Canada opens an investigation against VW

September 22, 2015

Canada announces opening an investigation into VW’s diesel emissions scandal.

U.S. files a second notice of violation against VW

November 2, 2015

Canadian government lab provides testing results to the U.S. EPA, which is used as evidence to issue a second notice of violation relating to Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche 2014-2016 3.0 L diesel vehicles.

U.S. launches a lawsuit against VW

January 4, 2016

The U.S. federal government launches a civil lawsuit against VW, seeking up to $46 billion US for violating the country’s pollution laws.

First partial settlement reached between U.S. and VW

October 25, 2016

A partial settlement agreement is reached between VW and the U.S. federal government, as well as California, related to affected 2.0 L diesel vehicles.

VW to pay $4.7 billion US that will be used to promote pollution reduction policies and programs as well as zero-emission vehicle infrastructure.

Eligible VW vehicles on recall in Canada

December 1, 2016

Affected vehicles eligible for trade-in, buyback or a fix by VW in addition to a cash payment between $5,100 and $8,000 CAD.

No public progress reported on the status of the Canadian federal government’s criminal investigation of VW for violating environmental and pollution laws.

Second partial settlement reached between U.S. and VW

December 20, 2016

A second partial settlement (related to 3.0 L diesel vehicles) is reached between the U.S. federal government and VW that requires the company to pay $225 million US to fund the EPA’s pollution prevention work.

VW pleads guilty to criminal charges

January 11, 2017

VW pleads guilty to three criminal charges and pays a fine of $2.8 billion US (which they were ordered to pay 3 months later). VW also agreed to paying an additional $1.5 billion US in fines to resolve civil based offences.

This plea agreement prevents VW from retracting admission of guilt if prosecuted in other jurisdictions including in Canada.

VW continues to sell cars with a half-fix in Canada

March 1, 2017

Canada allows VW to continue to sell non-compliant cars that have the cheat devices but received a software fix.

Ontario and Quebec courts approve class action settlements

April 1, 2017

VW pays a $2.1 billion CAD settlement to nearly 105,000 consumers who purchased affected vehicles as part of a class action lawsuit.

Request submitted to the Canadian government regarding VW investigation

June 1, 2017

Environmental Defence and CAPE staff, represented by Ecojustice lawyers, submit an official request to the federal Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (ECCC) under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) to investigate four criminal allegations related to the VW scandal.

Canada refuses to investigate

July 1, 2017

Canada acknowledges investigation requests submitted by EDC and CAPE staff but refuses to open investigations into three of the four allegations, claiming that they are a part of an ongoing investigation led by the ECCC. Consequently, ECCC refuses to provide regular progress and action reports (every 90 days) on these three investigation elements, which arguably contravenes citizen rights under CEPA.

Environmental groups launch judicial review against Canada

August 1, 2017

EDC and CAPE represented by Ecojustice file a judicial review of Canada’s decision to withhold information regarding the status and progress of the federal government’s investigation.

First VW employee sent to jail in the U.S.

August 25, 2017

James Liang, VW engineer, is sentenced to 40 months in prison, making him the first employee of the company to go to jail in the U.S. due to the scandal.

Ontario takes action against VW

September 20, 2017

Ontario charges VW Canada for not complying with Ontario’s emissions standards and raids their headquarters.

Another VW employee indicted in the U.S.

December 6, 2017

Oliver Schmidt, former VW manager, indicted by U.S. authorities and sentenced to seven years in prison due to the scandal.

Allegations of animal testing by VW

January 30, 2018

New reports reveal Volkswagen conducted tests of diesel exhaust on monkeys.

Former CEO of VW charged in the U.S.

May 3, 2018

Martin Winterkorn, former CEO of VW, charged with fraud and conspiracy in the U.S.

Canada fights disclosure of investigation documents

May 24, 2018

Canadian court rules against our request that ECCC discloses documents related to their investigation of VW. The court requires payment of fees of $1,500 to cover government costs.

VW charged a fine of $1 billion euros in Germany

June 13, 2018

Germany orders VW to pay $1 billion euros in fines for organisational failure to prevent illegal interference and installation of cheat devices in nearly 11 million cars sold in Germany between 2007 and 2015.

Separate civil enforcement proceedings and criminal investigations against VW and staff in Germany continue.

CEO of Audi arrested in Germany

June 18, 2018

Rupert Stadler, CEO of Audi (owned by VW), arrested in Germany due to links to diesel emissions scandal.

EU regulators charge VW, BMW and Daimler with emissions collusion

April 5, 2019

Europe’s antitrust regulators charge Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW for allegedly colluding to slow down the roll-out of clean emission technology for both diesel and petrol cars. Read our opinion piece.

Former VW CEO charged with fraud in Germany

April 15, 2019

Germany lays fraud charges against former VW CEO Martin Winterkorn and four high-profile managers for being implicated in the scandal since 2006. If convicted, Winterkorn could face up to 10 years in prison.

Environmental Defence takes ECCC to court again

July 23, 2019

Environmental Defence staff, represented by Ecojustice lawyers, applied for a judicial review to challenge the failure of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to properly report progress on an investigation requested by EDC staff in July 2017 as required by Public Participation provisions in the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA).

Former Audi CEO charged with fraud over emissions scandal

July 30, 2019

Germany charges former Audi CEO, Rupert Stadler, as well as a former senior manager at Volkswagen and two engineers, over their role in the scandal.

VW charged in Canada

January 22, 2020

Volkswagen is ordered to pay $196.5 million after pleading guilty to all Canadian emissions-cheating charges. This verdict was celebrated by the court and federal government as “a new era of environmental protection” as it was the largest environmental payout by a company in Canada. But a closer look at the VW case reveals a grim picture of Canada’s stance on environmental crime.