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New Mexico sues VW

Posted On: Jan. 20, 2016 12:00 AM CST

(Reuters) — New Mexico said on Wednesday it is suing Volkswagen AG and its luxury units over the German automaker' s excess diesel emissions, joining the states of Texas, West Virginia and Harris County, Texas.

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas said the state sued VW, Porsche, Audi and their U.S. subsidiaries for violations of the state's air quality control act and deceptive trade practice act on Tuesday in a New Mexico court.

VW has admitted installing illegal diesel emissions software to allow 580,000 U.S. diesel vehicles sold since 2009 to emit up to 40 times legally allowable emissions. It faces a U.S. ban on selling 2016 diesel models and is holding talks with California, which issued a separate ban, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to win approval for a repair of the vehicles.

"It's not lawful to profiteer and breach the trust of New Mexico consumers, and Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche will be held accountable for their deceptions," Balderas said. The suit blasted the "unacceptable behavior by one of the world's largest automakers.

"Volkswagen preyed upon hard-working New Mexicans who want to protect the environment or save money with fuel efficiency," it added.

Earlier this month, the Justice Department sued VW for violating the Clean Air Act, seeking up to $46 billion in fines. VW faces more than 500 civil suits that have been consolidated before a federal judge in California.

VW also faces investigations by 48 U.S. state attorneys. Some of those officials have criticized VW for citing German law to withhold emails and other documents.

Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen said earlier this month it was "frustrating" that "despite public statements professing cooperation ... Volkswagen is, in fact, resisting cooperation by citing German law."

The U.S. Justice Department and German prosecutors are also investigating the automaker, which has said up to 11 million vehicles worldwide were equipped with the software.

The company has blamed the deception on a small group of employees. It has hired advisory firm Deloitte and U.S. law firm Jones Day to investigate the circumstances under which the company installed software on diesel cars that changed engine settings to reduce emissions whenever the vehicles were tested.