A worker lifts the hood to inspect the engine bay of a completed Volkswagen AG Caddy van during quality control checks at the end of the production line at VW plant in Poznan, Poland, on Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2015. Volkswagen's struggles mark a stark contrast to a buoyant recovery in Europe's auto market.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

The U.S. Justice Department on Monday filed a civil suit against Volkswagen AG for allegedly violating the Clean Air Act by installing illegal devices to impair emission control systems in 600,000 vehicles.

The allegations in the lawsuit carry penalties that could cost Volkswagen billions of dollars, a senior Justice Department official said.

“The United States will pursue all appropriate remedies against Volkswagen to redress the violations of our nation’s clean air laws,” said Assistant Attorney General John Cruden, head of the departments environment and natural resources division.

The lawsuit will be filed in the Eastern District of Michigan and then transferred to Northern California, where class-action lawsuits against Volkswagen are pending.

It does not preclude the Justice Department from pursuing criminal charges against Volkswagen, said a senior Justice Department official.

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