Virginia joins multi-state probe of Volkswagen

More than half the states have launched investigations of Volkswagen following the automaker's admission that it used software to defeat government emissions tests in the United States.

In Virginia, where taxpayers subsidize VW to the tune of more than $1 million a year, Attorney General Mark Herring announced this week that his office is joining those in 28 other states to investigate the company.

"Volkswagen's actions to modify and alter emissions testing software was wrong and I will make sure every Virginia consumer affected by their actions receives what they are owed," Herring said in a press release. 

Volkswagen's North American operations are headquartered in Herndon, Va. The German auto giant set up shop in the commonwealth in 2007 as part of a $6 million economic development deal brokered by then-governor  Tim Kaine and Fairfax County.

Under the terms of the incentive agreement, Virginia has been paying Volkswagen $1.5 million a year. Payments began in 2011 and are scheduled to continue through 2016.

Responding to AMI Newswire's questions about the status of those payments should the investigation uncover fraudulent activity, Herring's office said it was "far too early to tell" what might happen.

Delegate John O'Bannon, chairman of the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission, said he was "amazed that a company of this size and stature would think they could get away with this."

O'Bannon told AMI Newswire that he did not think Virginia had "ever been confronted with something like this."

Asked whether the final payments on the incentives to Volkswagen may be in jeopardy, O'Bannon said he believed the best way to recoup what has already been paid to the company should fraud be discovered is through the Attorney General's office. Neither O'Bannon nor the AG were certain the North American headquarters operation will be a focus of the investigation.

Volkswagen has sold roughly 482,000 "clean diesel" vehicles in the United States since 2009. The Environmental Protection Agency says Volkswagen intentionally used software that caused the cars' pollution control systems to work only when being tested. Virginia requires biennial emissions testing of cars in Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William, and Stafford counties, as well as the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas and Manassas Park.