West Virginia Sues VW Over Deceptive Advertising For Vehicles Equipped With “Defeat Devices”


Since the Environmental Protection Agency revealed that Volkswagen had rigged its “clean diesel” to cheat on emissions tests, a number of consumers and cities have sued the carmaker. Now West Virginia becomes the first state to join the list of those alleging the company tricked car-buyers into paying thousands of dollars more for supposedly environmentally-friendly vehicles.

The state’s Attorney General, Patrick Morrisey, filed a lawsuit on Friday accusing the company of violating state consumer protection laws by deceiving consumers with advertisements touting clean diesel vehicles that were better for the environment, even through the company knew that wasn’t the case.

According to the lawsuit [PDF], West Virginia consumers purchased roughly 2,684 model year 2009 to 2015 VW vehicles for a premium of between $1,000 to $6,855 as a result of VW’s allegedly unfair and deceptive advertisements.

“Beginning in 2008, in order to entice consumers to purchase their TDI clean diesel vehicles, Volkswagen advertised the TDI line of vehicles as environmentally friendly, fuel-efficient and high performance,” the suit states. “In fact, Volkswagen marketed the TDI clean diesel vehicles as the ‘most clean diesel vehicles in the U.S.,’ and advertised that their engines were EPA certified in all 50 states.”

In reality, the automobiles were equipped with “defeat devices” that tricked emissions tests and spewed harmful pollutants at 40-times the allowable standards during normal driving conditions.

“Those West Virginia consumers who purchased Volkswagen and Audi TDI clean diesel vehicles did not receive vehicles that would perform as represented to them by Volkswagen,” the lawsuit claims. “Specifically, the TDI clean diesel vehicles are not environmentally friendly, and gain performance, fuel efficiency, and EPA certification only by circumventing required environmental controls.”

The lawsuit, which seeks a $5,000 penalty for each violation of West Virginia’s consumer protection laws and a refund for consumers who bought the vehicles, states that even if VW can fix the affected vehicles to meet EPA emissions standards, the “reduced performance and fuel efficiency, together with a stigmatization of the vehicles, will cause a diminution in the value” of the cars.

Bloomberg points out that the West Virginia lawsuit is just one of 229 filed against the carmaker so far, but it represents the first from one of the at least 45 states investigating the company and its vehicles.

In a way, it makes sense that West Virginia is the first state to file a legal challenge against the car manufacturer, as it was a 2014 independent analysis by researchers at West Virginia University that first uncovered VW’s use of defeat devices in its TDI clean diesel vehicles.

The researchers, working with the International Council on Clean Transportation, a non-governmental organization, raised questions about emissions levels, and the EPA, along with the California Air Resources Board, began further investigations into the issue.

[via Bloomberg]

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