Volkswagen pleads guilty in emissions-cheating case

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LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 25: Used cars by German manufacturer Volkswagen are parked at a dealership in Battersea on September 25, 2015 in London, England. The Department for Transport's Vehicle Certification Agency, the UK's national approval authority for new road vehicles, has announced that it will re-run laboratory tests on engines and compare the results with emissions from on-the-road tests in the wake of the VW test-rigging scandal. The German car manufacturer has admitted selling vehicles in the US with diesel engines that could detect when they were being tested for emission, changing the vehicles performance accordingly in order to improve results. (Photo by Rob Stothard/Getty Images)

Volkswagen has pleaded guilty to cheating the U.S. government by using software to evade emission rules in nearly 600,000 diesel vehicles.

The German automaker pleaded guilty Friday to conspiracy, obstruction of justice and an import crime. It was represented in Detroit federal court by its general counsel, Manfred Doess.

The deal was made weeks ago. VW has agreed to pay a $4.3 billion penalty, although the scandal has cost the company about $21 billion.

The company admitted installing software that activated pollution controls during government tests and switched them off during regular driving.

U.S. regulators confronted VW about the software after West Virginia University researchers discovered differences in testing and real-world emissions. Volkswagen denied the use of the so-called defeat device but finally admitted it in September 2015.