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Volkswagen “Defeat Device” Software Leads to Lawsuits

Volkswagen building

In a scandal that has sent stock prices for the German automaker Volkswagen plummeting, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) accused the manufacturer in recent weeks of evading American air quality standards in regards to its “clean diesel” models. In an allegation which the manufacturer has since confirmed to be true, the EPA claimed that certain diesel-engine models of both Volkswagens and Audis manufactured between 2009 and 2015 had been loaded with software that caused the cars to give a false emissions reading. The software, labeled a “defeat device,” activates while the vehicle is undergoing smog testing to temporarily limit the pollutants being emitted by the engine. When the car is driving normally, the EPA has stated that the cars emit over 40 times the legally-permitted amount of nitrogen oxide. Volkswagen is now potentially on the hook for some $18 billion in fines imposed by the EPA.

In addition to the civil penalties, the US Department of Justice has begun to investigate the possibility of filing criminal charges against the German automaker. At last count, the attorneys general in 27 states had joined together to mount a multi-state investigation into the fraud claims.

Volkswagen estimates that 11 million of the cars were distributed and sold worldwide, with half a million sold to American drivers. Those Volkswagen and Audi purchasers have begun to file legal actions against the car manufacturer for the fraud to which they were made victim. One such lawsuit, filed in Illinois, seeks damages for the losses in resale value, the loss of the purported environmentally-friendly nature of the cars, and the potential losses in horsepower and fuel efficiency once the defeat devices are uninstalled. The cars with the defeat device installed have been recalled from all Volkswagen lots, and owners of the cars are also concerned that, once those cars have been repaired and are returned to lots en masse, the resale value of the cars will plummet.

Volkswagen has pledged to spend some $7.3 billion on the repairs required for all recalled models. With nearly 500,000 recalled vehicles in the United States alone, plus millions more worldwide, some experts have estimated a total cost of nearly five times this amount. This sum also does not take into account the possible damages resulting from class action lawsuits.

If you have been the victim of a defective product or fraudulent promise left unfulfilled by a corporation, contact the knowledgeable Mobile products liability lawyer J. Allan Brown at 251-473-6691.

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