Volkswagen has been hit with numerous class action lawsuits filed over allegations that it deceived consumers and regulators when it installed “defeat device” software that blocks the release of pollutants during emissions tests in nearly 500,000 so-called “clean diesel” vehicles.
Update: VW Emissions Fraud Caused 60 Early Deaths, Study Finds
October 1 – About 60 Americans have already died prematurely as a result of the ‘defeat devices’ Volkswagen installed in nearly 500,000 diesel cars that were designed to trick emissions testing, according to a peer-reviewed study published last Thursday in Environmental Research Letters. The researchers also estimated that at least 140 people will die if affected vehicles are not recalled and repaired. Click here to learn more.
What’s the problem?
Lawsuits are piling up against Volkswagen in response to allegations by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that it cheated air pollution tests by installing defeat devices in electronic control modules of diesel vehicles sold between 2008 and 2015. The cars would only activate top emission controls when they were being tested, and then dump 10 to 40 times the legal limit of nitrogen oxide (NOx) into the air when they were on the road, according to CNN Money. Volkswagen hasn’t explained how the defeat devices work, but those details are likely to come out in court in the near future.
Do You Own a Diesel Volkswagen or Audi?
About 482,000 Volkswagen and Audi 2.0L smart diesel vehicles are affected, including:
- 2009-2015 Volkswagen Jetta & Jetta Sportswagen
- 2010-2015 Volkswagen Golf & Golf Sportswagen
- 2010-2015 Audi A3
- 2012-2015 Volkswagen Beetle & Beetle Convertible
- 2012-2015 Volkswagen Passat
11 Million Vehicles Worldwide Have Pollution Test Cheating Device
The controversy was ignited following the results of an investigation by the EPA and California Air Resources Board (CARB). According to Reuters, the agencies were first alerted to emissions problems with Volkswagen diesels in a study published by West Virginia University’s Center for Alternative Fuels, Engines & Emissions. When CARB and the EPA questioned the automaker in May 2014, the company said the increased emissions were the result of technical issues or unexpected conditions.
Although Volkswagen issued a voluntary recall for the problem in 2014, CARB tests found only a limited benefit. As a result, CARB and the EPA denied certification of VW’s 2016 diesel vehicles until it could explain the emissions.
“[o]nly then did VW admit it had designed and installed a defeat device in these vehicles in the form of a sophisticated software algorithm that detected when a vehicle was undergoing emissions testing,” the EPA said.
Volkswagen Recall to Start in January
New VW chief Matthias Müller has announced that the automaker will begin recalling millions of diesel cars fitted with emissions cheat software early next year, according to the Wall Street Journal. Müller said Volkswagen “doesn’t need three solutions, but thousands,” since the software was used in numerous models with country-specific variations. Click here to learn more.
How Much Will Volkswagen Pay Over Smog Scandal?
In the short time since the EPA launched allegations against VW, the automaker has seen tens of billions of dollars slashed from its market value and the resignation of its CEO, all while facing an $18 billion fine. Then there’s the potential for vehicle recalls and buybacks, as well as criminal charges and class action lawsuits from owners. The situation is likely to get far worse for Volkswagen before it gets better.
Emissions Probe Expands to Audi, Porsche
The EPA has announced it will examine other diesel engines built by Volkswagen to determine whether they contain emissions cheat software, according to CNBC. Meanwhile, two top engineering figures from Audi and Porsche have stepped down from their posts amid the controversy. Click here to learn more.
VW Sales Slump Amid Emissions Scandal
Volkswagen of America reported stagnant sales for September, as the fallout from its rigging of millions of diesel vehicles to cheat emissions tests continues. Many of the company’s models — including the Golf, Jetta, Beetle, Passat, CC and Touareg — recorded year-over-year losses for the month. Click here to learn more.
Automaker to Update Exhaust System in New Diesels
VW has announced plans to update the technology it uses for controlling diesel emissions in future models as it attempts to overcome the dieselgate scandal. According to the New York Times, the automaker will switch to a ‘selective catalytic reduction system’ which includes a tank of urea-based fluid to filter emissions from its diesel engines in Europe and North America.
“Diesel vehicles will only be equipped with exhaust emissions systems that use the best environmental technology,” said Herbert Diess, CEO of the Volkswagen Passenger Cars brand, adding that the change will be made “as soon as possible.” Click here to learn more.
Class action lawsuits filed against Volkswagen allege that the company violated federal law, common law, California’s consumer protection statutes, and breached applicable warranties. The complaints seek actual and punitive damages, a refund or repair of affected vehicles, and request that the court order Volkswagen to stop the deceptive practices.