Federal Trade Commission Takes Volkswagen to Court over Emissions Advertising
Image: Volkswagen
March 29, 2016

The Volkswagen emission saga may have appeared to be winding down, but things are starting to heat up.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is charging Volkswagen with deceptive advertising. VW promoted some of its cars as clean diesels that have lower emissions than those with gasoline engines, even though it knew that those claims were false.

Between 2008 and 2015, certain "clean diesel" cars from Volkswagen and Audi were fitted withvillegal emission defeat devices to mask high emissions during state inspections. The FTC is asking a federal court to require Volkswagen to compensate American consumers who bought or leased an affected vehicle during this time span.

False Advertising

In the complaint, the FTC claims that during this time, Volkswagen deceived consumers by selling or leasing more than 550,000 diesel cars based on false claims that the cars were low-emission, environmentally friendly, met emissions standards and would maintain a high resale value. The cars sold for an average price of about $28,000.

A high-profile marketing campaign included Super Bowl ads, social media and print advertising, often targeting environmentally-conscious consumers.

Promotional materials for the cars claimed that they reduced nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions by 90 percent and had fewer such emissions than gasoline cars. The FTC complaint, however, claims that they actually emit up to 4,000 percent more than the legal limit of NOx — a dangerous pollutant that contributes to environmental harms and respiratory ailments.

Volkswagen also claimed that the cars were compliant with emissions standards in all 50 states. But, the cars were only compliant when the cheat software was installed and running during an emissions test. Without the software, the cars weren't compliant with any emissions tests.

The FTC complaint includes several TDI diesel models of Volkswagen Jettas, Passats, and Touareg vehicles, as well as TDI Audi models. The least expensive Volkswagen model impacted by this issue retails for about $22,000, and the most expensive Audi model sells for about $125,000.

Related Stories

Intentionally Deceptive Emissions Software Forces Volkswagen Recall
North Carolina Attorney General Joins States in Volkswagen Emissions Investigation
US Consumer Group Demands Accountability from Volkswagen
Volkswagen Offers Goodwill Package to Diesel Vehicle Owners