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UPDATE: A $14.7 billion settlement has been reached with Volkswagen in this diesel emissions cheating scandal. Read More.
Since 1970, when Congress passed the Clean Air Act, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been required ”to establish national ambient air quality standards for certain common and widespread pollutants.” Currently, air quality is tested for nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, lead, ozone, particulate matter and sulfur dioxide.
Automobile manufacturers need to comply with the Clean Air Act and produce cars that maintain the required standards. As consumers, when we purchase an automobile, we expect to buy a quality product. In this day and age, that means the vehicle should comply with air quality emissions standards.
Volkswagen (VW) marketed its small diesel vehicles as being environmentally friendly and fuel efficient. VW asserted that their diesel cars would have a significantly smaller impact on the environment than regular gasoline vehicles. However, testing has revealed that Volkswagen had installed a ”defeat device” into its vehicles to get around existing emission standards. Rather than being ecofriendly, VW’s diesel vehicles actually exceeded state and federal emission standards. They could produce exhaust up to 40 times higher than the permitted level.
To think that an automaker would promote and sell a product specifically and intentionally designed to deceive both consumers and regulators is reprehensible. The available facts strongly suggest that Volkswagen knowingly committed fraud against American consumers.
The Volkswagen ‘defeat device’ is a software algorithm. This algorithm fully activates the vehicle’s emission control system when the electronics system, using the 2.0-litre common-rail diesel engine (or 2 litre TDI® engine), senses that the vehicle is undergoing an inspection. The system instructs the nitrogen oxide (NOx) trap to operate at full capacity, rather than allowing more pollutants to pass through it. When the vehicle is not being inspected, the engines operate differently – ignoring emission standards. This lets them release a higher level of pollutants.
EPA Issues Notices of Violation to Volkswagen
In September 2015, the EPA issued two notices of violation of the Clean Air Act to Volkswagen AG, Audi AG, Volkswagen Group of America, Inc., Porsche AG and Porsche Cars North America. These five companies make up the company called Volkswagen.
The notice of violation claims that ”four-cylinder Volkswagen and Audi diesel cars from model years 2009-2015 include software that circumvents EPA emissions standards for certain air pollutants.” In effect, ”The software produced by Volkswagen is a ‘defeat device’ as defined by the Clean Air Act.”
The Clean Air Act mandates that automakers certify that their products will meet federal emission standards created to control air pollution and that all vehicles are covered by an EPA-issued certificate of conformity. Any motor vehicle furnished with a defeat device cannot be certified.
What this means is that Volkswagen has not only manufactured vehicles that do not meet air quality standards, but also vehicles that cannot be certified.
Volkswagen Admits Vehicles Contain Defeat Devices
Volkswagen has acknowledged that some of its vehicles come equipped with defeat devices. The alleged violations affect approximately 499,000 diesel models sold in the United States since 2008. Worldwide, 11 million Volkswagens may contain defeat devices.
Volkswagen Group of America CEO Michael Horn stated, ”Let’s be clear about this: Our company was dishonest with the EPA and the California Air Resources Board and with all of you.”
Affected 2.0-liter diesel vehicles include:
- Jetta (2009–15)
- Jetta Sportwagen (2009–14)
- Beetle (2013-15)
- Beetle Convertible (2013–15)
- Audi A3 (2010–15)
- Golf (2010–15)
- Golf Sportwagen (2015)
- Passat (2012– 15)
Affected 3.0-liter diesel vehicles include:
- Volkswagen Touareg (2009-16)
- Porsche Cayenne (2013-16)
- Audi A6 Quattro (2014–16)
- Audi A7 Quattro (2014–16)
- Audi A8 (2014–16)
- Audi A8L (2014–16)
- Audi Q5 (2014–16)
- Audi Q7 (2009–16)
Government Lawsuit Filed Against Volkswagen and Recall Anticipated
In January 2016, the U.S. Justice Department sued Volkswagen for allegedly violating environmental laws. The amount being sued may go up to $46 billion.
Although no recalls have been issued yet, the EPA may mandate recalls for Volkswagen, Porsche and Audi in the future. The automakers are expected to develop a remedial plan to address this ‘defeat device’ situation.
Once the EPA has approved the plan, notifications of any recall will be sent to car owners. In the meantime, the vehicles are considered safe to drive.
Join with Weitz & Luxenberg in Our Class Action Suit
We believe you bought a vehicle under false pretenses, and the parties that acted recklessly and irresponsibly should be held accountable. You should be fully compensated.
To combat this fraud, we were one of the first law firms to initiate a class action suit on behalf of VW diesel car owners. The federal court recognized our leadership and, after consolidating more than 350 nationwide lawsuits, named Weitz & Luxenberg attorney Robin Greenwald to serve on the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee for the litigation.
In the United States alone, hundreds of thousands of consumers may have been misled. You may have purchased a vehicle you thought met air quality standards only to find out that it comes equipped with a device intentionally designed to deceive regulators.
Maybe you’re allowed to drive it, but you shouldn’t have to. Your car is probably worth a lot less than what you paid for it. And its emissions are both unhealthy and illegal.
How Weitz & Luxenberg Can Help
As a nationally recognized personal injury law firm, Weitz & Luxenberg is committed to helping clients win cases. For more than 25 years, we have dedicated ourselves to holding irresponsible practitioners accountable, and we have won $17 billion for our clients.
We would feel privileged to assist you. For a free consultation and more information about your legal options, please call us at 800-476-6070. If you prefer, you can complete our form, and our client relations representative will contact you shortly.