Volkswagen's emissions scandal is getting worse by the day.
The investigation has gone global with Germany, France and Britain calling for probes. Turns out, 11 million diesel cars worldwide were equipped with software that was used to cheat during pollution tests. CBS News' Kris Van Cleave reports the U.S. Department of Justice is looking into criminal charges. And now several states have started their own investigations.
"And in my German words, we've totally screwed up," said Volkswagen's U.S. CEO Michael Horn.
Horn said what's become painfully clear for the world's largest automaker.
"Our company was dishonest with the EPA and the California Air Resources Board and with all of you," Horn said.
The 11 million cars with software to cheat U.S. emission standards are diesel versions of five popular models built between 2009 and 2015.
The company says it is moving full speed towards finding a fix and has set aside more than $7 billion to deal with the problems, that about half a year's profits. But, it's facing up to $18 billion in possible fines.
The software senses when a vehicle is undergoing emissions tests and reduces the pollutants being released. But when driven, the EPA found 10 to 40 times above acceptable levels.
"The damage to Volkswagen is going to last for years," Clarence Diltow who runs the Center for Auto Safety said. "This was so clearly a deliberate act by executives at Volkswagen that there needs to be criminal penalties."
Volkswagen's CEO again apologized on Tuesday in Germany, his fate could be decided at a board meeting on Wednesday.
To be clear, this is not a safety issue. Cars won't crash because of Volkswagen's cheating. But there is a danger to health.
CBS News' Ben Tracy reports in the 1980's in Los Angeles beachgoers and buildings were shrouded in smog. Nearly 30 years later, you can see the positive impact of the toughest emissions standards in the country.
Diesel emissions, the kind Volkswagen now admits covering up during tests, are the largest contributor to airborne cancer risk in California. That's why the state requires cleaner burning gasoline and strict controls on diesel vehicles.
"This is an issue of public health," said Stan Young with California's Air Resources Board.
Because of its strict regulations between 1990 and 2012, the amount of diesel particles in the air dropped 68 percent in California. That helped lower the overall cancer risk from toxic air pollution by 76 percent. Young says VW's admission proves why testing is so important.
"Without this kind of really decisive testing, we wouldn't be able to find when they're cheating and when something is broken," he said.
California regulators are working with Volkswagen to recall all of the cars that no longer meet California's requirements. They estimate that could be as many as 60,000 vehicles.
for more features.