As a result of the "defeat device" software it installed in diesel cars, Volkswagen faces multiple criminal investigations in Europe.

And it will likely face criminal penalties in the U.S., along with hundreds of civil suits from angered owners.

Now, it seems the company may also be in legal trouble in China over potential diesel-emissions cheating.

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A Chinese environmental group is suing Volkswagen over use of the "defeat device" software, reports Reuters.

The China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation released a three-sentence statement on its website this week, saying that a "public-interest" suit against VW was filed in a court in the eastern port city of Tianjin.

The state-owned China Daily quoted the group as saying that Volkswagen "produced  the problematic vehicles for the pursuit of higher profits and circumvented Chinese laws," and that its actions "affected public health and rights."

2012 Volkswagen Passat TDI Six-Month Road Test

2012 Volkswagen Passat TDI Six-Month Road Test

Volkswagen acknowledged the legal action, but said it had not yet received an indictment from the court.

The company estimates that just 1,950 vehicles in China have the "defeat device" software, which allows cars to detect the conditions of a laboratory emissions test, and temporarily lower emissions levels.

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That's out of over 11 million vehicles worldwide confirmed to have the software.

It's also just a drop in the bucket compared to the rest of Volkswagen's China business. VW says it deliver 3.2 million cars in China in the first 11 months of 2015.

In addition, the extent of any violations of emissions regulations may be smaller. China's current emissions standards are less strict than those of the U.S. or Europe.

2015 Volkswagen Passat TDI

2015 Volkswagen Passat TDI

And it's worth noting that--while filed by a nominally independent group--the lawsuit likely has the implicit backing of China's government.

Like the media, advocacy groups in China are heavily policed. The government would not allow an attack on one of the largest companies doing business in the country without its approval.

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As it is doing in other countries, Volkswagen says it will present a technical fix to authorities before proceeding with repairs to the affected cars.

The company publicly apologized to Chinese customers at last month's Guangzhou Auto Show.


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