Hagens Berman Files National Lawsuit Against Volkswagen Group of America for Emissions-Cheating Software, Polluting Cars

Vehicles Reportedly Emitted Nitrogen Oxide at Rates 40 Times Higher Than U.S. Legal Limits

SEATTLE – Owners of Volkswagen and Audi “CleanDiesel” automobiles today filed a class-action lawsuit against the automakers’ U.S. manufacturer and distributor following news that the company violated federal and state laws by cheating emissions and pollution tests through deceptive, sophisticated software, according to consumer-rights law firm, Hagens Berman.

The suit accuses Volkswagen of fraudulent concealment, false advertising and violating consumer rights laws. According to the complaint, vehicle owners will suffer 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 vehicles meet EPA standards.

“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 tinkering that Volkswagen will have to do by law to fix these vehicles will almost certainly degrade the performance to less than what Volkswagen claimed when it originally sold these cars,” said Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman.

The complaint filed Sept. 18, 2015 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California states 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 Volkswagen and Audi diesel vehicles detects testing, and turns on full emissions controls, 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.

“Consumers we’ve heard from have gone to great lengths to find vehicles that they believed to be less polluting than other options, only to find out that the automaker cheated emissions tests,” Berman said. “When Volkswagen decided to write and use software to fool regulators, it showed its true colors and blindsided millions of consumers who had placed their trust in VW.”

According to the EPA NOV, Volkswagen installed its “defeat device” in at least the following diesel models of its vehicles:

  • Jetta and Jetta Sportswagen (model years 2009 – 2015)
  • Beetle and Beetle convertible (model years 2009 – 2015)
  • Audi A3 (model years 2009 – 2015)
  • Golf (model years 2009 – 2015)
  • Passat (model years 2012 – 2015)

Reports state that the automaker will be forced to recall all affected diesel vehicles.

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. The table below lists the premiums by model and trim for many of the affected vehicles:

CleanDiesel Price Premiums





VW Jetta




VW Beetle




VW Golf




VW Passat




Audi A3





“Volkswagen’s so-called ‘CleanDiesel,’ cars are in fact dirty, and they aren’t cheap, and consumers were willing to pay thousands of dollars more than other comparable models for what they thought was a better option,” Berman said. “What they got was a vehicle that actually pollutes more than average, and up to forty times above the legal limit of nitrogen oxide.”

Hagens Berman has brought high-profile cases against General Motors, Toyota and Kia.

Hagens Berman’s legal team is investigating this potential fraud by Volkswagen and harm to consumers. If you own one of the vehicles listed above, contact our legal team now.

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About Hagens Berman
Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP is a consumer-rights class-action law firm with offices in 10 cities. The firm has been named to the National Law Journal’s Plaintiffs’ Hot List eight times. More about the law firm and its successes can be found at www.hbsslaw.com. Follow the firm for updates and news at @ClassActionLaw.

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