Over to Martin Winterkorn, the chief executive of Volkswagen AG. ‘The Board of Management at Volkswagen AG takes these findings very seriously. I personally am deeply sorry that we have broken the trust of our customers and the public. We will cooperate fully with the responsible agencies, with transparency and urgency, to clearly, openly, and completely establish all of the facts of this case.Volkswagen has ordered an external investigation of this matter… We at Volkswagen will do everything that must be done in order to re-establish the trust that so many people have placed in us, and we will do everything necessary in order to reverse the damage this has caused.’

This is all about section 203 (a) (3) (B) of the Clean Air Act. And we quote: car makers ‘are subject to a civil penalty of up to $3750 for each violation that occurred on or after 13 January 2009. In addition, any manufacturer who, on or after 13 January 2009, sold… any new motor vehicle that was not covered by an EPA-issued COC is subject, among other things, to a civil penalty of up to $37,500 for each violation.’ This is where the $18bn fine threat comes from