Volkswagen will stuck in court for years to come now that three state attorneys general are saying that the auto maker systemically — and over a decade — tried to defraud consumers. The efforts, they say, go beyond a few engineers who tried to install phony software and into the upper echelons of the company.
New York, Massachusetts and Maryland are specifically targeting Volkswagen’s chief executive, Matthias Muller, saying that he had advance knowledge of engineers’ efforts to thwart clean air standards in the United States for certain Audi models. The company has admitted to equipping 11 million vehicles with software designed to give misleading results regarding emission levels, although it has said that this was done by a subset of employees and that upper manager was unaware.
The suits by the attorneys general allege a “willful and systematic scheme of cheating,” a New York Times
report says. The suits also allege that both Volkswagen and its sister company, Audi, chose to install the devices that help them defeat emissions tests instead of making expensive retrofits. Those suits are on top of what the car maker is negotiating with the federal government.
Civilly, the company’s liabilities could exceed the $14 billion for which it has already agreed to with the US government. Criminally, the U.S. Department of Justice is investigating.
The Volkswagen scandal is “one of the most flagrant violations of environmental and consumer laws,” Sally Q. Yates, deputy attorney general of the United States, said at a previous press conference, as reported in the press. Her comments were limited to the civil settlement.
In 2014, researchers at West Virginia University tested the Volkswagen and the Audi and discovered that the cars had been releasing more pollutants that the parent company had said. That’s when the car maker set out to systematically deceive consumers and regulators, the attorneys general maintain.
“It is regrettable that some states have decided to sue for environmental claims now,” a representative from Volkswagen has said, as noted by the New York Times.