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What do the Volkswagen problems mean for me?

Posted at 10:12 AM, Mar 02, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-02 13:12:26-05

This article is written by Peters and Associates.


Question: I own a Volkswagen diesel. I’ve seen a lot in the news about the company lying about emissions; maybe my car shouldn’t have passed. I also see officials hope to update the software soon so the car shows its true colors. Can I sue Volkswagen? What if I can’t pass a smog test anymore? Is my car worthless?

- John S., Las Vegas

Answer: You’re right, John. There definitely has been a lot in the news about the VW diesel situation. And now that the company has admitted actual wrongdoing, and the media have stopped using the word “allegedly,” quite a few consumers are asking your same questions.

Unfortunately, it’s too early in the process to be able to give you any specific answers.

As you may have guessed, this is an issue that’s bigger than any single consumer. In fact, it’s a worldwide problem and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency just happened to be the agency to issue the Notice of Violation - based on research from the International Council on Clean Transportation and the California Air Resources Board.

This isn’t the first time the the EPA has cited a manufacturer for cheating on emissions tests. Since the Clean Air Act was passed in 1963, several companies, including Chrysler, Ford, GM, Toyota, Honda and VW again in 1973, have been accused of using defeat devices to bypass emissions standards. In most instances, the auto companies reached agreements with the government that left the cars already on the road, on the road. The wiki page for “defeat device” has a pretty good timeline.

As an attorney, I try to estimate what’s going to happen based on historical outcomes, and this case is no different. The previous cases included huge fines, recalls for fixes, warranty repairs, pollution reduction projects and more. Consumers were left with their vehicles (although some were ordered in for repairs), and the settlements ensured that the damage done to the environment was mitigated in other ways. The consumer’s recourse in the historical cases was limited to the settlements paid to the government and to repairs to their vehicle, when required.

Society is a bit different now, and there is seemingly more concern about the environment and emissions than ever before, so I’d expect we’ll see record-setting penalties and reparations handed out to VW. I’d also expect to see a class-action lawsuit for the benefit of consumers who purchased these cars once we have more details.

Right now though, we need more chips to fall. So your best bet is to wait a while and keep your eyes on the global goings-on in this case.

Thanks for your question!

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Please note: The information in this column is intended for general purposes only and is not to be considered legal or professional advice of any kind. You should seek advice that is specific to your problem before taking or refraining from any action and should not rely on the information in this column.