FTC Sues Volkswagen for Falsely Advertising Clean Diesel Vehicles | Edmunds

FTC Sues Volkswagen for Falsely Advertising Clean Diesel Vehicles

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Federal Trade Commission filed a lawsuit against Volkswagen Group of America on Tuesday for falsely advertising clean-diesel vehicles that used pollution-spewing "defeat device" software.

The FTC said Volkswagen "deceived consumers with the advertising campaign it used to promote its supposedly 'clean diesel' VWs and Audis."

It is seeking a court order requiring the automaker to compensate American consumers who bought or leased more than 550,000 VW diesel cars between late 2008 and late 2015.

The FTC said VW's claims "that the cars were low-emission, environmentally friendly, met emissions standards and would maintain a high resale value," were false.

"Our lawsuit seeks compensation for the consumers who bought affected cars based on Volkswagen's deceptive and unfair practices," said FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez in a statement.

The cars sold for an average price of about $28,000, the FTC said.

The affected vehicles include 2009 through 2015 Volkswagen TDI diesel models of Jettas, Passats and Touareg SUVs, as well as TDI Audi models. The suggested sale 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.

The cars were marketed to car shoppers through a high-profile advertising campaign that included Super Bowl commercials and celebrity appearances. They targeted "environmentally conscious consumers," the FTC noted.

Volkswagen "studied their targets' psychology, concluding that such consumers 'rationalize themselves out of their aspirations and justify buying lesser cars under the guise of being responsible,'" the lawsuit filing said.

"Volkswagen has received the complaint and continues to cooperate with all relevant U.S. regulators, including the Federal Trade Commission," wrote Jeannine Ginivan, a VW spokeswoman, in response to a query from Edmunds. "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."

Volkswagen has not yet officially recalled the affected diesel vehicles, or announced a remedy for its consumers. The automaker is still in talks with the Environmental Protection Agency, California Air Resources Board and the U.S. Justice Department about a settlement.

A settlement could include vehicle buybacks.

"With their fake 'clean diesel' campaign, Volkswagen not only put profits before the health of our families and our planet, but through deceitful marketing, ripped off mindful consumers who thought they were purchasing cleaner vehicles," said Sierra Club California Director Kathryn Phillips in a statement. "Greenwashing is never okay, but when it puts the health and safety of our families at risk, there must be consequences. The Federal Trade Commission is right for filing this lawsuit."

Edmunds says: U.S. consumers may get their day in court in the ongoing Volkswagen diesel-emissions scandal.

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