Volkswagen cheated emissions tests by installing software on vehicles sold in the U.S. designed to evade regulators, the Environmental Protection Agency said Friday.

The EPA called the software a “defeat device” that allowed cars to pass Clean Air Act standards despite emitting pollutants up to 40 times the federal threshold.

The allegations are specific to about 482,000 diesel-powered cars from model years 2009-15, which include the Volkswagen Jetta, Beetle, Golf, Passat, and the Audi A3.

Major fines and penalties could be coming for the German automaker, and could be as much as $17 billion, according to MarketWatch, since the civil penalty for each vehicle in violation of federal law is about $35,500. The EPA said owners of those specific vehicles are not required to take immediate action. Volkswagen will be required to fix the cars for free, the EPA said.

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Author: Matt Griswold

After a 10-year newspaper journalism career, Matt Griswold spent another decade writing about the automotive aftermarket and motorsports. He was part of the original OnAllCylinders editorial team when it launched in 2012.