China has accused more than 20 car makers of breaking rules on green car subsidies, according to a state media report, widening a scandal over a $4.5 billion annual payout program. On September 8, China's Ministry of Finance punished at least five companies, accusing them of cheating its program to subsidize electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, thus receiving roughly 1 billion yuan ($150 million U.S.) in illegal subsidies. "This is a major blow to the industry and also has a large impact on the country's policy enforcement," Xu Yanhua, a vice secretary for the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers told a news briefing. The scandal has cast a pall over China's drive to use subsidies to combat heavy pollution that affects large swathes of the country. This drive helped sales of electric and plug-in hybrids more than quadruple last year to 331,000 vehicles. The subsidy cheating investigation is another blow to China achieving its full-year sales target of 700,000 electric and plug-in hybrid cars, said Yale Zhang, managing director of consultancy Automotive Foresight. China spent $4.5 billion last year in subsidies for such vehicles, although it is set to gradually phase out the payments by 2021. For the full story, see