FTC alleges defeat device rendered VW ad claims deceptive: A closer look at the lawsuit

Share This Page

Volkswagen Group of America spent multi-millions positioning its “clean diesel” technology as an environmentally conscious choice for car buyers – and sales of more than 550,000 so-called clean diesel vehicles suggest it was a persuasive pitch. But as a just-filed FTC lawsuit alleges, VW scored impressive green numbers by installing each car with a “defeat device” that cheated on emissions testing. According to the FTC’s complaint, the vehicles emitted excess nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions measuring as much as 40 times the maximum allowed by EPA regulations under normal driving conditions. That, says the FTC, renders VW’s campaign of eco-hype deceptive.

Green was the theme for VW’s extensive marketing campaign. As ads claimed:

  • “Diesel. It’s no longer a dirty word.”
  • “With the new Jetta TDI Clean Diesel, you get a great car that’s low on emissions . . . .”
  • “[C]lean-diesel technology such as ours can achieve 40-percent better fuel economy and reduce nitrogen-oxide emissions by 90%.”
  • “Touareg V6 TDI meet[s] the most stringent emission requirements of the world [with] its advanced DeNOx system.”

Other ads delved into the purported technology that led to such impressive numbers, but according to the FTC’s complaint, the relevant technology was “illegal software designed to defeat EPA’s testing procedures” – in other words, VW’s defeat device.

The complaint charges VW with multiple violations of the FTC Act.  Count I alleges that because of the defeat device, a host of the company’s claims about low emissions, NOx reductions, emissions compliance, eco-consciousness, and comparative resale value were false or deceptive. 

Count II charges that VW deceptively failed to disclose the existence of defeat devices that would adversely affect the cars’ resale value – information that would have been material to prospective buyers.

Count III focuses on ads, brochures, and other promotional items VW distributed to dealers and distributors – materials the FTC alleges provided those companies with the means and instrumentalities to engage in deceptive acts or practices.

Court IV alleges that VW’s use of defeat devices constitutes an unfair practice under the FTC Act.

The case is pending in federal court in California. In addition, the FTC continues to work closely with other agencies investigating VW’s defeat devices. We’ll follow up as developments arise.



I don't think it's 40x the Emission limit here in NJ and NY so as an American consumer this is confusing.

despite the fact that electric cars are coming in to play the issue pertaining to "clean diesel"is an important issue to pursue.

Reviewing the documents for the 2.0 liter settlement, the adjustment for mileage is unfair.

The reason I purchased a diesel vehicle was to have a vehicle that could obtain high-mileage and still retain value. The mileage adjustment should be capped to that amount made during the period of the loan or financing.
Based upon the VW settlement, it looks like I will be penalized and made to suffer for the Audi/VW dishonesty and flagrant violation of U.S. law.
The feedback loop to FTC seems inconsistent; I feel as though this settlement will be a take-it-or-leave-it with no real consumer input on the front end.

Part of the mitigation plan is to provide funds to businesses and government agencies to replace older medium and heavy duty diesel trucks with newer diesel trucks. Problem is these newer trucks DO NOT reduce pollution as claimed. CARB's own studies show thee newer trucks emit pollution at the same or higher rate that old diesels when driven in the city. These "new" diesels emit PM and NOx and much higher levels than the VW cars yet CARB and EPA won't fine or shut down these trucks like they are doing to VW. In CARB's own studies, ONLY natural gas trucks consistently maintained legal emission levels at all times, and electric heavy duty trucks could not complete most drive cycles for testing, let alone an actual work day.
Non of these mitigation funds should be spent on new diesel trucks...we need to get diesel off the road!

So what do I do? I fall EXACTLY in this catagory... I have to look to see if VM mail doc is still here

Add new comment

Comment Policy

Privacy Act Statement

It is your choice whether to submit a comment. If you do, you must create a user name, or we will not post your comment. The Federal Trade Commission Act authorizes this information collection for purposes of managing online comments. Comments and user names are part of the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) public records system (PDF), and user names also are part of the FTC’s computer user records system (PDF). We may routinely use these records as described in the FTC’s Privacy Act system notices. For more information on how the FTC handles information that we collect, please read our privacy policy.