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FTC sues Volkswagen over Clean Diesel campaign

Staff writer |
The Federal Trade Commission has charged that Volkswagen Group of America, Inc. deceived consumers with the advertising campaign it used to promote its supposedly "clean diesel" VWs and Audis.

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The FTC is seeking a court order requiring Volkswagen to compensate American consumers who bought or leased an affected vehicle between late 2008 and late 2015, as well as an injunction to prevent Volkswagen from engaging in this type of conduct again.

In a complaint filed in federal court, the FTC 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.

“For years Volkswagen’s ads touted the company’s ‘Clean Diesel’ cars even though it now appears Volkswagen rigged the cars with devices designed to defeat emissions tests,” said FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez.

“Our lawsuit seeks compensation for the consumers who bought affected cars based on Volkswagen’s deceptive and unfair practices.”

According to the FTC’s complaint, Volkswagen promoted its supposedly “clean” cars through a high-profile marketing campaign that included Super Bowl ads, online social media campaigns, and print advertising, often targeting “environmentally-conscious” consumers.

For example, Volkswagen promotional materials repeatedly claimed that its “Clean Diesel” vehicles have low emissions, including that they reduce nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions by 90 percent and have fewer such emissions than gasoline cars.

In fact, the FTC’s complaint states that they emit up to 4,000 percent more than the legal limit of NOx — a dangerous pollutant that contributes to environmental harms and respiratory ailments.


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