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Volkswagen plead guilty to 3 felony counts in diesel emissions scandal

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Eighteen months after it admitted that it cheated U.S. diesel emissions tests, Volkswagen pleaded guilty Friday to conspiracy and obstruction of justice, the Associated Press reported. The German company agreed to pay a $4.3 billion penalty, making it the largest ever criminal and civil penalty levied by the U.S. government against an automaker if approved by a federal judge.

The scandal, thus far, has cost Volkswagen an estimated $21 billion, including a pledge to repair or buy back vehicles.

WATCH | Volkswagen plead guilty to 3 felony counts in diesel emissions scandal

The scandal broke out in September 2015 when U.S. regulators confronted Volkswagen about the inconsistencies in testing and real-world emissions of nitrogen oxide. At first, the company denied the use of the so-called defeat device but ultimately conceded.

The scandal didn't stop there, though. After its admission, company employees deleted computer files and other evidence. CEO Martin Winterkorn resigned amid the controversy, though, he said he was "stunned" and "shocked" by the misconduct.

The judge said he wanted more time to study the terms of the penalty negotiated by the U.S. Justice Department. He set a sentencing date of April 21.

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