FTC Sues Volkswagen Over “Clean Diesel” Campaign

Volkswagen TDI models were sold for years under the “clean diesel” moniker, which trumpeted their high fuel economy and low emissions.

As you may well have heard, it turns out Volkswagen was swindling regulators and drivers by using “defeat device” software. The program detected when a vehicle was undergoing testing and masked emissions, which would then increase when the vehicle was being driven under normal conditions.

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FTC lawsuit seeks compensation for Volkswagen owners

Volkswagen’s use of the “clean diesel” tag will now form the basis of a lawsuit against the company, filed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). According to a press release the FTC is pushing for a court order that will require Volkswagen to compensate owners of TDI vehicles, and an injunction “to prevent Volkswagen from engaging in this type of conduct again.”

Owners who bought or leased cars from late 2008 to late 2015 would be covered by the plan.

“Volkswagen has received the complaint and continues to cooperate with all relevant U.S. regulators, including the Federal Trade Commission,” a Volkswagen statement said. “Our most important priority is to find a solution to the diesel emissions matter and earn back the trust of our customers and dealers as we build a better company.”

“Clean diesel” campaign comes back to bite automaker

The “clean diesel” ad campaign included print advertising, social-media posts and Super Bowl ads, which the FTC alleges targeted “environmentally-conscious” drivers. The ads claimed that the cars provided low emissions, and the FTC alleges that this is patently false.

Among those claims were that TDI cars met “stringent emissions requirements,” were “50-state compliant,” and would provide high resale values. On the contrary the cars fail federal emissions tests without cheating and the cars are losing value rapidly.

Claims that the diesels were “clean” has enraged consumers. According to Kathryn Phillips, Sierra Club California director, Volkswagen “ripped off mindful consumers who thought they were purchasing cleaner vehicles.” Phillips said that the FTC “is right for filing this lawsuit.”

“There’s really no end in sight to this situation,” said Rebecca Lindland, senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book. Lindland says that every government agency that is “even remotely impacted” by the diesel scandal is likely to pursue legal action.

Volkswagen is set to face a raft of lawsuits, and still hasn’t come close to an agreement with the EPA and the California Air Resources Board on a fix for the affected diesel cars in the U.S, which number nearly 600,000.