So maybe they took the EPA lightly…..

The head of German automaker Volkswagen Group apologized Sunday after allegations surfaced that his company deliberately tried to evade United States air pollution laws.

Martin Winterkorn, the company’s chief executive officer, said he was “deeply sorry” for violating the trust of customers and the public, and said that Volkswagen had ordered an external investigation into the matter.

Volkswagen faces up to $18 billion in fines for the violations under the Clean Air Act, under which the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets air pollution rules for motor vehicles.

“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,” Winterkorn said in a Sunday statement

“We do not and will not tolerate violations of any kind of our internal rules or of the law.”

Winterkorn stopped short of admitting to the EPA’s allegations.

On Friday, the EPA said it had discovered that about 482,000 diesel vehicles sold by VW and its subsidiary Audi in the United States had “defeat devices” that detect when the vehicle is undergoing an EPA emissions test and turn on equipment that controls output of nitrogen oxides to acceptable levels.

At all other times, the EPA said, the vehicles emitted more pollutants, sometimes exceeding allowable volumes by 40 times.

The agency has not yet officially charged Volkswagen with any civil or criminal penalties, nor did it order any recalls of the affected vehicles. California, which has its own emissions regulations, is also accusing the company of violating air rules.

“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,” Winterkorn said, adding that the issue is the top priority for him and the entire management team.