Volkswagen/Audi/Porsche Diesel Emissions Scandal
Did you own a VW, Audi or Porsche that runs on diesel?
Volkswagen admitted to cheating emissions tests with an illegal "defeat device" software that bypasses pollution regulations, violating federal laws and consumers' rights. The device has been found in all VW, Audi and Porsche vehicles equipped with the 2.0 liter or 3.0 liter diesel engines.
Hagens Berman was the first firm in the nation to file a lawsuit against Volkswagen for its emissions fraud and has been named to the Plaintiffs' Steering Committee leading the national fight against VW, Porsche and Audi on behalf of owners and lessors of affected vehicles. Volkswagen has admitted to using the defeat device to cheat emissions standards in the following VW, Porsche and Audi vehicles:
2012-15 VW Beetle TDI
2012-15 VW Beetle Convertible TDI
2010-15 VW Golf TDI
2015 VW Golf Sportwagen TDI
2009-15 VW Jetta TDI
2009-14 VW Jetta Sportwagen TDI
2012-15 VW Passat TDI
2010-15 Audi A3 2.0L
2009-16 VW Touareg TDI 3.0L
2014-16 Audi A6 Quattro 3.0L
2009-16 Audi Q7 3.0L
2014-16 Audi A8 3.0L
2014-16 Audi A8L 3.0L
2014-16 Audi Q5 3.0L
2014-16 Audi A7 Quattro 3.0L
2013-16 Porsche Cayenne 3.0L
About VW's Emissions Fraud
The EPA determined that the software installed in these vehicles – called a “defeat device” – only turns on full emissions controls when the car is being tested, but otherwise shuts down emissions controls during normal operation.
The lawsuits filed against Volkswagen, Porsche and Audi state that during normal operation, these vehicles emit nitrogen oxides (NOx) at up to 40 times the standard allowed under United States laws and regulations. During emissions tests, the software in the diesel vehicles detects testing, and turns on full emissions controls, but only during the test.
According to the complaint, NOx pollution contributes to nitrogen dioxide, ground-level ozone, and fine particulate matter. Exposure to these pollutants has been linked with serious health dangers, including asthma attacks and other respiratory illness serious enough to send people to the hospital.
Volkswagen, Porsche and Audi marketed their CleanDiesel vehicles as environmentally conscious, charging higher prices for cars that polluted at illegally high levels. Volkswagen pitched itself to the American public as the world’s foremost innovator of “clean” diesel technology, duping hundreds of thousands of environmentally conscious consumers willing to pay a high price. Consumers believed Volkswagen and bought VW, Audi and Porsche branded “clean” diesel vehicles in record numbers. During the relevant time period, Volkswagen sold more diesel cars in the U.S. than every other automaker combined. There are over half a million cars on American roads with illegal emission systems.
What Laws Did VW Break?
Federal laws through the EPA are designed to protect U.S. citizens from pollution and in particular, certain chemicals and agents known to cause disease in humans. Automobile manufacturers must abide by these laws and must adhere to EPA rules and regulations. Volkswagen broke federal and state laws regarding the environment and consumers’ rights when it knowingly installed the defeat device in the affected vehicles.
The lawsuit accuses Volkswagen of fraudulent concealment, false advertising and violating consumer rights laws, including the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, as well as state laws regarding warranties, consumer protection, deceptive trade practices and fraudulent concealment.
Every vehicle sold in the United States must be covered by an EPA-issued certificate of conformity. Under federal law, cars equipped with defeat devices, which reduce the effectiveness of emissions control system during normal driving conditions, cannot be certified. By manufacturing and selling cars with defeat devices that allowed for higher levels of emissions that were certified to EPA, Volkswagen engaged in criminal activity, violated the Clean Air Act, defrauded its customers and engaged in unfair competition under state and federal law.
According to the complaint, vehicle owners suffered loss of vehicle value due to Volkswagen’s future recalls and degrading of performance characteristics such as horsepower and fuel efficiency in order to make the affected vehicles meet EPA standards.
The firm believes that consumers deserve fair compensation for VW’s environmental damage and loss of vehicle value, including the return of the premium that they paid for a CleanDiesel over the cost of the same model and trim of car with a gasoline engine; restitution of the purchase price of their car should any “fix” installed by Volkswagen result in a degradation of performance and/or fuel efficiency; compensation for any additional sums spent on fuel or maintenance as a result of any “fix”; restitution for purchase of extended warranties that will go unused; and a lump sum for remediation of the environmental damage Plaintiffs and the Class unwittingly contributed to by driving cars that they believed were clean, but were in fact in violation of state and EPA regulations and the Clean Air Act.
What DID the Volkswagen Lawsuit Seek?
From reference to Volkswagen's MSRP on its website, vehicle owners who purchased Volkswagen's diesel vehicles paid anywhere from $1,000 to $7,000 more for vehicles with the diesel engines, as opposed to the same models with standard gas engines.
In the lawsuits, plaintiffs sought damages, injunctive relief and equitable relief for the conduct of Volkswagen related to the defeat device. Specifically, the lawsuit sought for plaintiffs:
- a buy-back program for the Class Vehicles,
- monetary damages (including treble damages under RICO),
- appropriate restitution,
- pollution mitigation,
- business reforms, and
- injunctive and other equitable relief.
In addition, Plaintiffs and Class members may be entitled to an award of punitive or exemplary damages, given that, for years, Volkswagen deliberately, and with malice, deceived Plaintiffs and Class members, disregarded their rights, and used them as unwitting puppets in a scheme that jeopardized the safety of the American public.
WERE Other Automakers Involved?
The Dieselgate emissions-cheating fraud began with Volkswagen, but we believe it is not the only automaker guilty of fraudulently representing its emissions. The firm has also filed a national class-action lawsuit against Mercedes-Benz USA for misrepresenting and concealing facts about emissions levels in its BlueTEC diesel vehicles. Specifically, the lawsuit filed against Mercedes states that the automaker knowingly programmed its Clean Diesel vehicles to emit illegal, dangerous levels of nitrogen oxide (NOx) at levels 65 times higher than those permitted by the EPA when operating in temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Find out more about the lawsuit against Mercedes.
The firm has also sued many other automakers, including Fiat Chrysler, BMW, Ford and General Motors, for emissions cheating. The class-action firm has brought half a dozen lawsuits against Volkswagen for the installation of defeat devices in its vehicles, including the first filed complaint against the automaker. Hagens Berman has also brought high-profile cases against General Motors, Toyota and Kia. The firm's managing partner, Steve Berman was appointed co-lead counsel representing Toyota owners, and in 2013 negotiated a $1.6 billion settlement on behalf of consumers who owned or leased Toyota vehicles that lost value as a result of public disclosures of quality control problems that led to a rash of cases of sudden unintended acceleration.
How Can I Learn More?
To receive email updates and general info about the ongoing litigation at the firm, you can sign up for general updates from Hagens Berman. If you have specific questions about the VW lawsuit, please visit our Volkswagen FAQ and additional section of VW Owner Questions to read questions from other owners. Hagens Berman also maintained a Dieselgate newsroom with high-profile articles during the scandal. Additionally, you can reach Hagens Berman's Volkswagen Emissions legal team by emailing [email protected] with your questions.
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