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The Volkswagen emissions scandal widened Monday to include luxury models manufactured by VW-owned Audi and Porsche.
In a Notice of Violation addressed to VW, Audi and Porsche executives and attorneys, the Environmental Protection Agency said that certain diesel-powered Audi and Porsche models built starting in 2014 were equipped with software that could sense when the cars were being tested and alter engine performance so the cars would pass. When the software sensed the tests were completed, the engines reverted to spewing many times the allowable levels of nitrogen oxide.
The EPA’s allegations are a further blow to VW, which admitted in September that it had equipped more than 400,000 VW-branded diesel-powered cars with the software. But until today, Porsche and Audi diesels were not included.
“We are surprised to learn this information,” Porsche said in a statement released Monday. “Until this notice, all of our information was that the Porsche Cayenne Diesel is fully compliant.”
The vehicles covered by the EPA’s complaint include some of Porsche’s and Audi’s most popular — and profitable — models, among them Porsche’s hot-selling Cayenne SUV and Audi’s flagship A8 sedan.
Audi has been particularly aggressive about courting Hollywood, sponsoring Industry events and working with filmmakers to ensure the brand is well-represented in tentpole franchises like Iron Man where Audi’s R8 supercar is the personal ride of Tony Stark, played by Robert Downey Jr. The Cayenne and A8 are familiar sights to upscale restaurant valets in Beverly Hills.
Both brands have logged robust sales recently — in September Audi announced it had set its 56th straight monthly U.S. sales record and the second strongest month in its history. Porsche recorded its highest North American September sales in the company’s history, largely on the popularity of the Cayenne, Porsche’s best-selling model.
The EPA’s charges come just weeks before the Los Angeles Auto Show, where Porsche and Audi are expected to debut new models but may be overshadowed by questions about the emissions scandal during the show’s press preview, Nov. 17-19.