The federal government says it has reached an impasse in talks with Volkswagen over penalties for emissions cheating.
So the government is suing the automaker.
The Department of Justice filed a complaint in federal court in Detroit on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency, alleging that Volkswagen installed software in 600,000 so-called "clean diesel" cars that sensed when an emissions test was being performed.
The software turned emissions controls on during the test, and off during normal driving, leading to pollution up to 40 times the allowable standard in vehicles with a 2.0 liter engine, and up to nine times the allowable standard in vehicles with a 3.0 liter engine.
The breakdown of talks could signal that the government wants to levy a unprecedented fine against Volkswagen for emissions cheating as a message to other companies.
The government struck a deal with automakers in two big previous scandals: GM's delayed ignition switch recall, and Toyota's delayed recalls for unintended acceleration.