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Justice for Volkswagen buyers who've been 'had'

Volkswagen announced that it is cooperating with a probe into the charge that some of its diesel vehicles evaded federal and California clean air standards with software designed to cheat emissions tests. In the meantime, owners of the vehicles involved may call 1-866-LAW-2400 for advice as to how they can protect their rights and be made whole for the diminished resale value of their automobiles and/or for the cost of repairing the emissions malfunction.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Sept. 18 that it had issued the German automaker a notice of violation, or NOV, concerning the use of devices in some of its vehicles that not only skirted emissions tests but fooled the buyers into believing they had purchased an automobile compliant with clean air regulations. VW admitted the deception.

"As described in the NOV," the EPA wrote, "a sophisticated software algorithm on certain Volkswagen vehicles detects when the car is undergoing official emissions testing, and turns full emissions controls on only during the test. The effectiveness of these vehicles' pollution emissions control devices is greatly reduced during all normal driving situations. This [modification] results in cars that meet emissions standards in the laboratory or testing station, but during normal operation, emit nitrogen oxides, or NOx, at up to 40 times the standard. The software produced by Volkswagen is a 'defeat device,' as defined by the Clean Air Act."

To the EPA, this is serious.

"Using a defeat device in cars to evade clean air standards is illegal and a threat to public health," said Cynthia Giles, EPA assistant administrator for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "Working closely with the California Air Resources Board, EPA is committed to making sure that all automakers play by the same rules. EPA will continue to investigate these very serious matters."

The allegations cover roughly 482,000 diesel passenger cars sold in the United States since 2008, according to the EPA, including the following Turbocharged Direct Injection, or TDI, models and model years:

  • Jetta (MY 2009 - 2015)
  • Jetta Sportwagen (MY 2009-2014)
  • Beetle (MY 2012 - 2015)
  • Beetle Convertible (MY 2012-2015)
  • Audi A3 (MY 2010 - 2015)
  • Golf (MY 2010 - 2015)
  • Golf Sportwagen (MY 2015)
  • Passat (MY 2012-2015)

Many Volkswagen lawsuits request that the automaker buy back the vehicles or remove, at no cost to the owner, the defeat devices. No matter the relief, a lot of owners are stuck with vehicles that, at this point, are worth far less than those autos otherwise would be. Unacceptable!

An independent analysis of emissions performance by researchers at West Virginia University led to the discovery of the defeat device software. Working alongside the non-governmental International Council on Clean Transportation, researchers questioned the emissions levels. The EPA and the California Air Resources Board looked into the researchers' concerns and then discovered the cheating technology.

"In September, after EPA and CARB demanded an explanation for the identified emission problems, Volkswagen admitted that the cars contained defeat devices," according to an EPA statement.

Volkswagen had this to say about the status of its TDI fleet: "Right now, we've put a stop sale on all 2.0L 4-cylinder TDI equipped vehicles (new and certified pre-owned) and we're working with the responsible agencies to obtain approval for the MY16 2.0L TDI vehicles."

Volkswagen owners who've been clearly "had" deserve better and, with proper legal representation, they can get the justice they deserve. The Volkswagen attorneys at Reich & Binstock offer a free consultation.

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