The International Council on Clean Transportation gave a grant to West Virginia University to study emission test results on diesel cars in the United States. A group of researchers at WVU began real world testing of these cars, including Volkswagens and Audis. They could not replicate VW’s low emission claims in actual driving time. Eventually, this data was turned over to the Environmental Protection Agency. That’s when it hit the fan, so to speak.
It turns out that the affected models of Volkswagen and Audi were equipped with a complex software algorithm that detects when the car is undergoing official emissions testing and turns full emission controls on during the test. When the test ends these omission controls are disabled. This is called a “defeat device.” Its purpose is to evade the clean air standards required by the EPA. As a result of getting caught committing this fraud, Volkswagen is now forced to recall eleven million vehicles. Its CEO has resigned in disgrace.
The affected models include: Jetta (MY 2009-2015; Jetta Sportwagen (MY 2009-2015); Beetle (MY 2012- 2015); Beetle Convertible (MY 2012-2015); Audi A3 (MY 2010-2015); Golf (MY 2010-2015); Golf Sportwagen (MY 2015); and the Passat (MY 2012-2015). Vehicle manufacturers are required to certify to EPA that their vehicles will meet the federal standards for emissions. All vehicles sold in the United States must be certified by the EPA as conforming to the standards. A vehicle with a defeat device cannot be certified.
This fraud and deception by Volkswagen has resulted in the sale of millions of vehicles that emit many times the allowed amount of pollution. In particular, they emit nitrogen oxides (NOx) at up to forty times the standard allowed in the United States. The emission of this pollutant can lead to health issues for the American public.
Volkswagen expressly marketed and advertised its CleanDiesel models as extraordinarily clean, EPA certified in all 50 states, and powerful. Volkswagen also charges a substantial premium for what it has been marketing as its “CleanDiesel” models. In other words, as a marketing strategy they have been able to charge more for these models that they tout as having more fuel efficiency, cleaner, more powerful and better performing. Volkswagen has lied.
Where does this leave people who have bought these cars? The EPA has ordered Volkswagen to recall these vehicles. Volkswagen will not be able to make these affected vehicles comply with emissions standards without substantially degrading their performance, including their fuel efficiency and horsepower. Therefore, it is almost certain that purchasers of these cars will suffer actual harm even if Volkswagen is eventually able to make them compliant with the emissions standards.
What about used car dealers? If they have any of the affected cars in their inventory, can they sell them? Even if they could, who would now want to buy them.
There are a number of causes of action available to persons or companies that have been harmed by this massive fraud. These include breach of contract, misrepresentation, fraudulent suppression or fraudulent concealment, violation of various state statutes dealing with false advertising, violations of unfair trade practices, and strict product liability.
At Jinks, Crow and Dickson we are already representing a number of persons who have been harmed and damaged by this massive deception. We have clients in several states. We are determined to use our experience, our skill and our resources to bring justice for our clients.