Volkswagen Could Face More Class Action Plaintiffs as Diesel Emissions Scandal Hits Newer Models
German automaker Volkswagen has, until recently, been renowned for its fuel-efficient and environmentally-conscious vehicles. However, a study at a West Virginia university revealed that the company’s newer diesel vehicles featured a “cheat device” in the engine which could detect when the vehicle was in emissions testing. The device made the vehicle appear to pass US and UN clean air standards, which are an important component of emissions testing. Once out of the government-mandated testing, however, the cheat device would turn off, potentially allowing the engine to be more fuel efficient, but releasing toxic chemicals in large amounts into the atmosphere. The company faces a class action lawsuit based in California, and the ire of numerous customers who will now have a difficult time reselling their cars.
Although lead engineers and other heads of the company have apologized and either resigned or been fired, Volkswagen has now revealed that its 2016 model diesel vehicles apparently feature the same cheat device. The company has now withdrawn its application to sell those vehicles in the US because they violate the Clean Air Act and other regulations enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The EPA released a statement that they have not yet determined if the software in the 2016 model Volkswagens is meant to cheat emissions tests, but acting assistant EPA administrator Janet McCabe said that the agency had “a long list of questions” for the automobile manufacturer.
If the EPA finds that the vehicles do indeed feature the cheat device and that was intentionally installed to violate the US’s clean air standards, then the company will be hit with more fines, McCabe said. She did say that Volkswagen’s initial failure to disclose this information on their application to sell their 2016 model cars in the US was illegal.
“The punitive actions from the EPA are only going to get more aggressive,” added Kelley Blue Book senior analyst Karl Brauer.
While the company faces potential criminal charges, in the US as well as various European countries, the manufacturer also faces the ire of disappointed customers who are joining a class action lawsuit. The class action states that VW intentionally and negligently misled customers into believing, through its advertising, that the vehicles were better for the environment. Volkswagen owners in California, Iowa, Missouri, Tennessee, Maine, Oregon, Wisconsin, Florida, Virginia, New York, North Carolina, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Georgia, Texas and Vermont have also filed lawsuits for personal injury, financial loss, negligence, and deception.
California lawmakers added last month that they would begin a criminal investigation into Volkswagen’s actions. The state has some of the toughest laws regulating vehicle emissions, and has a strict cap on nitrogen oxide emissions in particular, as they add to problems with smog and ozone, and can hurt asthma and allergy sufferers.
“If there is sufficient evidence to show that Volkswagen intentionally programmed its vehicles to override the emission control devices, the company and any individuals involved could face criminal charges under the Clean Air Act, and for conspiracy, fraud and false statements,” said David M. Uhlmann, a former chief of the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section, who is now a law professor at the University of Michigan. He called criminal charges against Volkswagen, whether from California, the US, or several countries, is “almost certain.”
The Strom Law Firm is investigating potential fraud and negligence, so contact us today for a consultation on your potential Volkswagen lawsuit.