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Volkswagen Vehicles Equipped With “Defeat Devices” to Pass EPA Emissions Tests

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You’ve probably noticed that automakers tend to take a few creative licenses when describing the possibilities of their vehicles. Maybe they don’t accelerate quite as quickly as advertised, and the ability to use the navigation system while driving can be more of a hassle than a help. But it’s a fine line between embroidering the truth and outright lying in marketing materials—something Volkswagen is learning at an extremely high price.

Volkswagen Faces Fines and Possible Criminal Charges for Cheats

The rise of hybrids and electric vehicles has put pressure on automakers to produce vehicles that are less harmful to the Green Car With a Cloudy Backgroundenvironment. Consumers are willing to pay top dollar to decrease their carbon footprint, and less environmentally-conscious manufacturers are losing out on the market. So when Volkswagen began advertising its diesel-powered passenger vehicles as “clean, fuel efficient, and powerful,” there seemed to be a viable alternative to electric-powered cars.

However, that promise was recently discovered to be a deception. While Volkswagen’s “clean diesel” vehicles did pass the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) standards for low emissions, it only did so during environmental road testing, thanks to a software implant used to detect when the vehicle was being driven for testing purposes. During normal driving, emissions from the vehicles could reach over 40 times the federal safety standard.

The scandal could have a number of consequences for the German automaker, including:

  • Recalls. The automaker has admitted that these environmental “defeat devices” have been installed in diesel TDI versions of the Golf, Passat, Jetta, and Beetle dating back to 2009. Although most of the affected vehicles are believed to be in Europe, Volkswagen estimated that roughly 11 million clean diesel cars are equipped with these devices. Volkswagen has announced that they are initiating a recall for these vehichle. Volkswagen may be required to remove the devices and bring the cars emissions systems up to federal standards, likely at the automaker’s expense.
  • Money Damages to Consumers.  The automaker may be liable to consumers who purchased the affected vehicles for:  1)  deceptive trade practices; 2) overpayment for the vehicles (between $1,000 to $6,800); 3) loss of resale value; 4) loss of horsepower and fuel efficiencency when made compliant with current federal emission standards, and, 4) higher fuel costs.
  • Fines. Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA can fine automakers up to $37,500 for every vehicle found to be noncompliant with federal standards. At the highest possible fines, Volkswagen could potentially be ordered to pay over $18 billion.
  • Criminal charges. Violating clean air standards is not only unethical and potentially costly, it is also illegal. By installing the cheat software on the estimated 500,000 Volkswagen and Audi diesel models sold in the U.S., Volkswagen knowingly violated the Clean Air Act, and could face criminal prosecution.

Volkswagen has pledged to stop selling its 2015 and 2016 Volkswagen and Audi diesel models in the U.S. and has initiated a recall to lower emissions in the vehicles it has already sold. Consumers driving diesel versions of the Golf, Jetta, Beetle, Passat, and Audi A3 should know that there is no danger to themselves or passengers, and it will be up to the company to fix the issue.

Do you think Volkswagen should be forced to pay for its disregard of safety standards? Share a link to this article on Facebook or leave a comment below to weigh in on the discussion!


John, getting a VISA gift card is nice—especially during the holiday season. But it may be that the safe approach is to ignore this offer, for reasons I will explain. Corporate wrongdoers know that their best plan to avoid accountability is to avoid court altogether. They have been hard at work at this for years and have succeeded in undermining our court system by inserting what are known as Arbitration Agreements in their contracts. It is possible that you may even have signed an arbitration agreement when you purchased your car, but it likely only extends to the dealer and not to Volkswagen. An arbitration agreement prevents you from having your case heard in court in front of a jury of your peers. Corporations know that they stand a better chance if a corporate arbitrator is appointed to decide your case. This arbitrator gets thousands of cases each year from big corporations and stands to benefit from ruling in their favor—which happens in most of the cases. Even when an arbitrator does rule for the “little guy” he or she usually limits the award to a small amount. So how does the gift card offer come into play? Our lawyers have taken the time to read the “fine print” which comes along with this VISA gift card. Essentially, Volkswagen has included an arbitration agreement which states that you give up your right to go to court if you accept their gift card. At this point we do not know if Volkswagen will ever take the position that this arbitration provision applies only to disputes with the gift card, or if it will claim that ANY dispute you have with Volkswagen must be arbitrated. In fact, the arbitration provision that comes along with the gift card is SO BROAD that it would be very easy for them to make this argument. And the sad part is that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that even broadly worded arbitration agreements buried deep in the fine print are enforceable! Ultimately the choice is yours to make. But our sound advice is not to risk having an arbitration argument leveled against you for Volkswagen’s fraud merely because you accepted a gift card. This may sound far-fetched, but I assure you it is not. Every day thousands of Americans are kicked out of court because of fine print arbitration clauses. And even if you prevail against such an argument it may take years of appeals and thousands of dollars in expenses to get there. DON’T BECOME A SECOND VICTIM! Strongly consider passing up Volkswagen’s offer of the gift card—the case you save may be your own!
Posted by Wayne Wright on December 11, 2015 at 12:45 PM
For us diesel owners VW has offered 500 dollars visa gift card and 500 service certificate. Will claiming these hurt our case?
Posted by John R. on December 9, 2015 at 01:20 PM
You are right John. Class Action lawyers only represent the person shown on the original lawsuit as the Plaintiff. The lawyers represent the class as a whole and cannot show favoritism to any member of the class except its very limited circumstances. Many class actions end up with relatively small settlements. You are wise to get your own personal lawyer. Thanks for trusting us. We have lawyers licensed in over 20 states and have associated lawyers in all 50 states. Wherever you are located we can help. Check out our website connected to our Automotive Fraud Division at WayneWright.net to get up-to-date breaking news on our Volkswagen litigation.
Posted by Wayne Wright on October 23, 2015 at 12:50 PM
Thank for your this very good article on the VW fraud scandal. I have been following this emissions fraud since September and always look to your website for the answers to my questions in an honest and ethical manner. I own a Volkswagen Golf with the affected diesel engine. I am hiring you to represent me because I know you will do the best job of making sure my case gets personal attention. I sure don't want anything to do with a class action. A class action will never do a service to us who own these vehicles. I have my own unique damages and they would never be paid for through a class action. Plus, i would never be able to talk to the class action lawyer because he or she represents the one person who filed the action but not any other individuals. Every person who owns one of these cars needs their own lawyer.
Posted by John W on October 22, 2015 at 10:22 PM

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