VW Emissions Scandal
In September 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released a damning report indicating that Volkswagen had installed software on several of its' diesel cars to cheat emissions test. The so called "defeat devices" were discovered in over 480,000 vehicles in the United States, but recent evidence suggests tens of thousands of more vehicles may be involved.
What is a Defeat Device?
A defeat device defined by the U.S. EPA as "any apparatus that unduly reduces the effectiveness of emissions control systems under conditions a vehicle may be reasonable expected to experience."
In simpler terms, a defeat device makes emissions appear better than they truly are in simulated tests. In VW's case, their defeat device was installed as a piece of software meant to alter emissions readings when vehicles were put under certain conditions that registered the car was being tested. Basically, the software "knew" when it was going through an emissions test rather than regular driving, and adjusted its emissions accordingly.
However, when consumers drove their vehicles regularly, they were under the impression their vehicles were actually cleaner than they actually were. According to the EPA, the level of emissions from the VW turbocharged direct injection (TDI) diesel engines was upwards of 40 times the allowed amount based on the U.S. Clean Air Act.
As of right now, there are eight vehicle models that may have been manufactured with a defeat device. In the United States, these vehicles include:
- 2009-2015 Audi A3 2.0 L TDI
- 2009-2015 VW Beetle 2.0 L TDI
- 2009-2015 Beetle Convertible 2.0 L TDI
- 2009-2015 VW Golf 2.0 L TDI
- 2015 VW Golf Sportwagen 2.0 L TDI
- 2009-2015 VW Jetta 2.0 L TDI
- 2009-2014 Jetta Sportwagen 2.0 L TDI
- 2012-2015 VW Passat 2.0 L TDI
Volkswagen has already admitted to "totally screwing up" and "breaking the trust of costumers and the public." Former CEO Martin Winterkorn has resigned as a direct result of the scandal. Other executives and employees could soon follow once the EPA and U.S. Department of Justice complete their investigations.
In the mean time, VW plans on recalling millions of cars around the world starting early in 2016. According to VW, they have set aside roughly $7 billion dollars to cover recall costs. According to the EPA, they can fine the company up to $37,500 for each vehicle that breaches emissions standards, which as of right now would carry a maximum fine of close to $18 billion dollars.
What Can VW Owners Do?
VW vehicle owners can have several legal options they can pursue. First and foremost, VW owners must determine whether their vehicle is affected by the emissions scandal or not. Only the 2 liter, TDI models from specific years are affected by the issue.
If the vehicle in question is affected, then VW owners should consider speaking to an attorney to discuss the legal options available to them. Several class action lawsuits have already been filed, and it is likely that more lawsuits will be filed on behalf of VW owners over the next months/year.
Until these lawsuits become more centralized and actually make it to court, it is in the best interests of VW owners to seek legal counsel to understand their rights and what to expect as the details of the case are clearer.