Emissions scandal: US consumer watchdog sues VW

Washington - A federal consumer watchdog sued Volkswagen on Tuesday (March 29), charging the company made false claims in commercials promoting its "Clean Diesel" vehicles as environmentally friendly.

This news comes a week  after Volkswagen said it was recalling around 800 000 luxury sport utility vehicles worldwide over a potential footpedal problem.

South Africa affected

Volkswagen SA issued this statement to Wheels24: "VWSA will contact owners of the 3 350 Touaregs sold locally between 2011 and 2016 for a preventative inspection of their cars at the nearest Volkswagen dealerships. The inspection which will take less than 30 minutes, will look for possible loosening of a retaining ring on the bearing block of the pedal system. The ring will be checked for proper installation."

VW deceived owners

The German automaker hastily pulled the ads following admission in 2015 it had installed illegal software on its diesel vehicles to cheat emissions tests. US regulators say Volkswagen's engines spewed up to 40 times the allowed levels of air pollutants in real-world driving conditions.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) alleges that Volkswagen deceived customers during a seven-year period by selling more than 550 000 diesel cars based on fraudulent claims made through a marketing campaign. That campaign included Super Bowl ads, online social media campaigns and print advertising targeted to "environmentally conscious" consumers.

Volkswagen proclaimed in a mailer to customers promoting its 2009 Jetta TDI: "Hybrids? They're so last year. Now going green doesn't have to feel like you're going green."

The FTC's action is the latest blow to Volkswagen, which also faces more than $20-billion in potential fines for violating US clean air regulations and hundreds of class action lawsuits filed on behalf of angry customers.

FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said: "For years Volkswagen's ads touted the company's 'Clean Diesel' cars even though it now appears Volkswagen rigged the cars with devices designed to defeat emissions tests. Our lawsuit seeks compensation for the consumers who bought affected cars based on Volkswagen's deceptive and unfair practices."

Potential criminal charges

In addition to the raft of civil litigation, the Justice Department and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is also weighing potential criminal charges against the company and its senior executives.

Volkswagen Group of America spokesperson Jeannine Ginivan said the company is reviewing the latest lawsuit and "continues to cooperate with all relevant US regulators."

Ginivan 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."

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