“Make VW Pay” Campaign Seeks Rebates For Consumers Tricked Into Buying Recalled Clean Diesel Vehicles

While the nearly 500,000 recalled Volkswagen and Audi vehicles may be considered safe to drive, many owners of these cars feel they were tricked into buying them by VW’s “clean diesel” marketing. A new campaign is calling on the carmaker to buy back all of those vehicles — and to refund the owners the full retail price for their cars.

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group’s “Make VW Pay” campaign aims to hold the car company accountable by getting it to take back all those cars that owners would not have bought if they knew the truth about the vehicles’ emissions system.

“VW once was a company that brought us iconic cars like the Beetle and the flower-powered microbus, but now VW is just a big cheater,” Ed Mierzwinski, Consumer Program Director of U.S. PIRG, said in a statement.

While VW CEO Martin Winterkorn resigned today claiming he committed “no wrongdoing,” Mierzwinski says that VW should still pay full penalties under law and grant full rebates to the customers it deceived into buying the “pollution-spewing cars that led to massive, undeserved profits.”

According to the EPA’s recall order, the diesel cars were programmed to sense when emissions were being tested, and to turn on equipment that reduced emissions.

However, the effectiveness of these vehicles’ pollution emissions control devices is greatly reduced during all normal driving situations, emitting as much as 40 times the allowed amounts of nitrogen oxide.

Mierzwinski says that U.S. PIRG’s campaign will hold VW accountable “while preventing future corporate lawbreaking that cheats consumers or places health, safety, wallets or the environment at risk.”

Under the campaign, U.S. PIRG calls for VW to offer to back all “defeat device” diesel cars with full rebates to customers, while also suggesting the EPA seek the maximum penalty of $37,500 per car — around $18 billion in all.

Additionally, the group urges Congress to put an end to what it calls the auto industry’s “get out of jail free” loophole that makes it harder to prosecute auto executives for intentionally violating the law and putting the public at risk.

U.S. PIRG also recommends that the Department of Justice refrain from allowing tax write-offs for wrongdoing.

“GM got off cheap with a $900 million penalty over its ignition switch defect and cover-up that reportedly led to as many as 124 deaths,” concluded Mierzwinski. “Let’s make sure VW pays, that its customers get justice and that corporate crime no longer pays.”

VW owners who feel they were tricked into buying their car can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, and may want to consider doing the same through their particular state’s attorney general’s office.

Those who really regret buying their VW and want to be rid of it now are free to try selling their recalled vehicle on the used car market.

Our colleagues at Consumer Reports point out that the California Air Resources Board will not take action against owners or their cars when it comes time to register or sell their Volkswagen diesel — at least for now.

CARB spokesperson David Clegern tells the publication that once an official recall is issued, manufacturers have six months to supply the VINs for vehicles not fixed.

At that point, the names are flagged by DMV, and recalled vehicle owners in California will not be allowed to register their cars until the fix has been performed.

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