Ford disclosed last Friday that the U.S. Justice Department launched a criminal investigation into their emissions certification process. They claim to be cooperating fully with the government while still carrying out an internal review of its own. Supposedly the Justice Department notified Ford earlier this month that that this criminal investigation was under way, making Ford the latest to be questioned in regards to their adherence to U.S. emissions standards. So far Ford is the only one to actually comment on the situation, with both the Justice Department and the Environmental Protection Agency refusing to comment at all.
The financial blowback Ford could face if they are found to be cutting corners could be immense. America’s number two automaker will incur many fines thanks to the much tougher restrictions regulators have been making in recent years. However, all we know for certain right now is that Ford is in talks with the EPA and the California Air Resources Board, and that they have handed over documents that are related to the investigation. A testing plan that has been approved by regulators has also been handed over, with the 2019 Ford Ranger pickup truck being the first Ford vehicle to be evaluated.
According to the EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler, Ford is not the only automaker that is going to come under fire, claiming that enforcement actions against other automakers are also in the works. Such hefty crackdowns on the automotive industry began in 2015 when it was discovered that Volkswagen AG was using defeat devices to cheat the system. Defeat devices can make it appear that diesel engine vehicles are complying with emission standards even if they aren’t in reality. Ford claims that they have not been using defeat devices of any sort, but that remains to be seen, unless we decide to take their word for it.
In that situation, Volkswagen agreed to pay $25 billion total to the U.S for the scandal, which included the harmful effects of the hidden emissions, as well as claims by owners and regulation violations. They even offered to buy back half a million of the vehicles in the U.S. that were causing the problem. In short, it’s not a good sign for Ford if they really have been cutting corners on emissions just to save a buck. If it turns out that they have been cheating the system, there will be a whole lot of money to pay out to the government, and that’s to say nothing of the impact on their image as an automaker company. As the number two automaker in the country, it is quite possible their standing could drop significantly if a scandal reveals them to be breaking the law where they can.
But until the investigation is complete, we have no idea if Ford truly did anything at all, or if the Justice Department is simply making a sweep of several auto making companies just to be on the safe side.
Sources: Ford Authority, Cars.com