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The former head of the German automaker Volkswagen has been indicted. A U.S. federal grand jury charged VW's former CEO Martin Winterkorn and five other top executives for conspiracy to defraud the United States and for violating the Clean Air Act. This comes as a result of the company's diesel cheating scandal you might remember. NPR's Sonari Glinton has the story.
SONARI GLINTON, BYLINE: Volkswagen's so-called dieselgate began with cheating. The company installed software in its cars that - I'll just let Jake Fisher with Consumer Reports explain.
JAKE FISHER: And what they programmed these vehicles to do is to sense when they're taking the test and actually operate differently at that time. And at the time that they're being tested, they would pollute less.
GLINTON: Now, it was getting caught installing that cheating software that caused VW so many problems. Investigations sprung up on three continents. The company has had to pay more than $20 billion in fines, with a B, and now nine VW executives including the former CEO have been criminally charged.
FISHER: I think it really took a - made a shockwave through the entire industry that this is the effect of what happens when you cheat. It really does not pay off.
GLINTON: While the company has had to pay a lot of money in fines, it's unlikely that these former VW executives will see the inside of a U.S. jail cell. That's because the German government doesn't usually extradite its citizens. Gina Coplon-Newfield is with the Sierra Club. She says there's actually a silver lining to all this. That's because as a part of the settlement VW has had to invest in green technology for the public.
GINA COPLON-NEWFIELD: VW is now being forced to spend billions of dollars to both compensate duped consumers but also to invest in such things as electric vehicle transit buses, school buses and port vehicles, as well as electric vehicle charging stations and public outreach.
GLINTON: Volkswagen has clearly changed its direction since the scandal and is now investing in electric vehicles. Sales are up. The company has even surpassed its rival, Toyota.
COPLON-NEWFIELD: You know what? If they've paid the price financially and if its people responsible have paid the price then, you know, I don't think it matters so much to us whether the company does well. If they're doing well because they're selling cleaner vehicles then that's terrific.
GLINTON: Volkswagen says it's continuing to cooperate with the U.S. Justice Department, and this week the company's new CEO Herbert Diess told shareholders in Berlin, quote, "Volkswagen has to become more honest, more open, more truthful." Sonari Glinton, NPR News.
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