As we previously reported European automobile manufacturer Volkswagen has been under scrutiny after it acknowledged that it altered the emissions systems in its vehicles so that the cars would pass emissions standards tests. In so doing, the company concealed that its diesel models emit nitrogen oxide in extremely high levels. They were able to get the vehicles to pass by installing software "defeat devices" in 11 million vehicles worldwide that triggered altered emissions rates when vehicles were being inspected.
Despite the companies acknowledgement and agreement to fix the problem, the auto-maker is facing class-action lawsuits in a U.S. District Court in California. The suits claim Volkswagen engaged in "widespread fraud" by rigging the emissions systems and then marketing the vehicles in the U.S. The company allegedly violated federal laws designed to fight racketeering.
The class actions have been filed on behalf of over 500,000 owners and dealers in the U.S., and this will only add to the manufacturer's woes. The suits have yet to be approved for class action, but it seems likely the cases will proceed which will become a lengthy and costly problem for VW. In addition, the company may be forced to pony-up regulatory fines to the tune of $46 billion in the U.S. It has also recently been reported that part of that regulatory enforcement will require the manufacturer to begin producing electric powered vehicles in the U.S. Finally, the company is under criminal investigation in Germany and elsewhere in the European Union.
A spokesman for Volkswagen reportedly said the filing was expected and that the company would not comment on the allegations. However its admission to rigging the emissions systems to create the perception the diesel models were in compliance has badly damaged the company's reputation.
The complaints that are being considered for class status contend that Volkswagen along with its Audi and Porsche units, with the knowledge of company executives, violated federal racketeering statutes by knowingly rigging the vehicles in the U.S. to pass emission tests, while the tailpipe emissions actually exceeded legal limits by 40 percent. At the same time, the company was marketing the vehicles' "clean diesel technology" which enable the company to dominate the U.S. diesel market. By advertising low emission engines, high performance and fuel economy based on the rigged emissions systems, attorneys argue the company engaged in deliberate fraud.
This case is one of the more egregious examples of how automakers push defective vehicles onto consumers. If you have been the victim of a vehicle defect, an attorney with expertise in auto-product liability may be able to help you obtain compensation.