There are two sides to every coin. One case in point is the Volkswagen debacle, about which a company executive testified before Congress last week. The German automaker has come under fire from federal and California environmental regulators for making several models of vehicles for years that evaded emissions detection, thus diminishing the value of the car and creating a clean air compliance problem for the owners of those vehicles.
A University of West Virginia study in the spring of 2014 shined the light on Volkswagen's use of a "defeat device" that spawned pollution levels in emissions tests that belied the pollution emitted during normal vehicle operation. The vehicles and model years in question are as follows:
- 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)
On one side of the coin is Volkswagen's seemingly proactive stance to solving the problem. More than a year after the UWV study - on Sept. 3, to be precise - Volkswagen came clean.
"On September 3, 2015, Volkswagen AG disclosed at a meeting with the California Air
Resources Board and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that emissions software in four cylinder diesel vehicles from model years 2009-2015 contained a 'defeat device' in the form of hidden software that could recognize whether a vehicle was being operated in a test laboratory or on the road," the company's president told a congressional subcommittee last Thursday. "The software made those emit higher levels of nitrogen oxides when the vehicles were driven in actual road use than during laboratory testing."
The executive also explained that Volkswagen had people working on a solution.
But on the other side of that coin is the sale of hundreds of thousands of vehicles equipped with defeat devices that Volkswagen didn't say a peep about from the time those vehicles reached consumers in 2008 to last month.
As one California Volkswagen lawsuit filed in September explained, "Rather than devoting its time to actually designing and manufacturing a cleaner engine, Volkswagen had focused on finding a way to cheat. The new 'clean diesel' vehicles remained incapable of passing federal and state emissions standards, but Volkswagen had equipped the vehicles with illegal software designed to falsify the vehicles' emissions ... Without its illegal software, Volkswagen would not have been able to sell a single 'clean diesel' vehicle in the United States. But Volkswagen's scheme worked for years, allowing it to place a half million of these vehicles on America's roads. Only recently, after a university study called the emissions levels into question, and the EPA and CARB began to investigate, was the validity of the test results called into question. Even then, Volkswagen continued to lie. It told the government that the university study results were anomalous and fixable. A few weeks ago, Volkswagen was finally compelled to admit what it had done."
Plaintiffs in Volkswagen lawsuits generally demand that the automaker buy back the car and/or remove the defeat device at no charge to the owner. They also seek any other form of damages provided by statute - actual, punitive or otherwise.
Owners of vehicles equipped with a defeat device may call 1-866-LAW-2400 for advice as to how they can proceed legally and protect their rights. No automaker should be allowed to get away with this.