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Car and Driver: FTC Files Complaint Against VW Over “Clean Diesel” Ad Campaign

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1vwjet_tdi_09_wrap-1-626x382The latest blow to land in the ongoing Volkswagen diesel deception saga comes not from the EPA or the International Council on Clean Transportation, but the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which has charged that Volkswagen’s “Clean Diesel” advertising campaign deliberately deceived consumers. The complaint, filed in federal court on March 29, 2016, is seeking a court order requiring that Volkswagen compensate all consumers who bought or leased an affected vehicle between late 2008 and late 2015.

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Specifically, the official complaint alleges that, “during this seven-year period 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 approximately $28,000, although the complaint maintains the suggested retail prices for the affected vehicles ranged from approximately $22,000 for the least-expensive Volkswagen model with a 2.0-liter engine to approximately $125,000 for the most expensive Audi model with 3.0-liter engine.

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Featured in numerous high-profile advertising campaigns including television Super Bowl ads, online social media campaigns, and print advertising, the advertisements often targeted “environmentally-conscious” consumers. Additionally, the FTC charges that Volkswagen’s installing the emissions defeat devices was an unfair practice. FTC chairwoman Edith Ramirez claims the lawsuit “seeks compensation for the consumers who bought affected cars based on Volkswagen’s deceptive and unfair practices.”

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The FTC maintains that Volkswagen also claimed that “Clean Diesel” vehicles met “stringent emission requirements,” were “50-state compliant,” and would maintain a high resale value. Yet, according to the FTC’s complaint, these claims were also false because without the illegally installed software, the “Clean Diesel” vehicles would not have passed federal emissions standards and the hidden defeat devices will significantly reduce the vehicles’ resale value.

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The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the complaint was 4-0. Still in the early stages, the Commission files a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The case will be decided by the court. We’ll have the outcome of the case and details on the settlement, if any, when the decision is handed down.

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