On September 21, 2015, McCuneWright, LLP, along with another firm, filed a class action complaint in the United States District Court for the Central District of California against Volkswagen Group of America, Inc. and others for intentionally designing and distributing software in its “clean diesel” vehicles designed for the sole purpose of circumventing federally mandated emissions standards.
The complaint alleges that Volkswagen designed a software algorithm, known as a “defeat device,” that enabled the clean diesel vehicle’s onboard computer to determine when a federally mandated emissions test was being conducted and to command the emissions system to run in a special test mode that would allow the vehicles to pass the emissions test. Following the completion of the test, the computer would then direct the system to return to its normal operating mode that would cause the vehicle to emit up to 40 times the amount of nitrogen oxides permitted by U.S. law under normal driving conditions. The complaint further alleges that this allowed Volkswagen to claim that its clean diesel vehicles possessed performance and fuel economy characteristics that the vehicles could not have attained if in compliance with federal emissions standards.
Mischaracterizing its clean diesel performance has helped Volkswagen capture nearly three quarters of the automotive diesel market in the United States. The complaint asserts this to be one of the most deliberate and blatant frauds carried out by an automotive manufacturer in the industry’s history.