Senate panel probes whether VW abused tax break program

Source: Sean Reilly, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Senate Finance Committee is investigating whether Volkswagen, already in trouble over emissions cheating, also illegally claimed millions of dollars in tax credits under a program to spur sales of fuel-efficient vehicles.

In a letter yesterday to top executives with the German automaker, Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and ranking member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said that VW claimed the “advanced lean-burn technology” credit — worth in some cases $1,300 per car — on some of the same diesel models recently found to have “defeat devices” intended to foil emission-testing requirements (Greenwire, Sept. 18).

“This activity raises questions of whether Volkswagen made false representations to the U.S. government in its certification for federal tax subsidies,” Hatch and Wyden wrote.

Based on sales figures, buyers of those cars may have claimed more than $50 million in credits. They asked VW to turn over all certifications, quarterly reports and related documents from 2007 through 2011 related to eligibility for the credit and asked whether the company made any “false or misleading assertions” along the way.

A Volkswagen spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment yesterday evening.

The letter, which asks Volkswagen to supply the requested information by Oct. 30, is addressed to Matthias Müller, the newly named CEO of Volkswagen AG in Germany, and Michael Horn, the head of the carmaker’s American arm.

Horn is scheduled to testify on the emissions scheme at a hearing tomorrow by the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. Also on the witness list are two U.S. EPA officials: Christopher Grundler, head of the agency’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality; and Phillip Brooks, director of the air enforcement division.