VW drivers fuming over ‘cynical’ cheating
Volkswagen AG diesel owners in Metro Detroit and across the country are worried about vehicle performance, pollution levels and whether they can ever trust the German automaker again, following revelations it installed software that allowed it to cheat on emissions tests for about 11 million diesel cars.
Longtime automotive writer Jean Jennings, a Chelsea resident and editor-in-chief of automotive website Jeanknowscars.com, is a two-time VW diesel buyer: a 2013 Jetta SportWagen TDI, which she’s since sold to a friend; and a 2015 Golf SportWagen TDI, which she still drives.
“I think it’s outrageous and appalling,” she said of the scandal. “I love that car so much, so it makes me extra mad.”
The cheat caused the cars to emit up to 40 times the amount of smog-forming pollution allowed by U.S. law.
Jennings said the VW news will rock the company and could impact the future of diesels in the U.S. “It’s calculating and cynical,” she said.
A week ago, the Environmental Protection Agency and California Air Resources Board said Volkswagen admitted to installing emissions defeat devices in 482,000 2009-15 Volkswagen Jetta, Passat, Sportwagen, Beetle and Audi A3 cars with 2-liter diesels sold in the U.S. Software in the cars allowed pollution-control systems to function normally while being tested, but shut them off during regular driving.
Analysts speculate there are only three advantages to such a device: VW may have wanted to get higher fuel economy, better performance or avoid more expensive emissions controls like those on larger diesel VWs.
Other VW owners such as Kevin Baur, 41, of Jackson, aren’t as concerned about the emissions issue. Baur bought a 2015 VW Golf SportWagen TDI in June. He said he likes the car — it’s his second Volkswagen diesel — and he isn’t worried about any immediate hit on resale value.
The to-be-determined fix by Volkswagen, however, is a concern. Baur said he is getting miles-per-gallon performance in the mid-40s on the highway — something he’d like to keep.
“I’m sure it will lose mileage and performance if they tighten up emissions a little bit,” he said.
Since the crisis erupted, Volkswagen has announced some 11 million cars are involved globally, and its CEO resigned. The automaker has set aside more than $7 billion to pay for fixes. The Department of Justice, 29 state attorneys general and regulators from around the globe are investigating.
Kelley Blue Book, citing IHS Automotive registration data, says more than 11,200 VWs affected by the emissions issue are registered in Michigan. California, with nearly 66,000 VW diesels registered, is the state with the most cars.
How much of an impact it will have on Volkswagen sales remains to be seen. The company has halted U.S. sales of the cars. Edmunds.com predicts Volkswagen and Audi sales will fall 2 percent in September, a month in which it expects all other major manufacturers to post an increase from the same period a year ago.
TrueCar Inc. said Thursday it predicts the Volkswagen Group’s sales could fall 5.2 percent in September; it expects the industry overall will post a double-digit gain.
“With 27 percent of VW sales coming in the form of TDI-equipped cars, we expect an immediate impact on the brand until the stop-sale on TDI vehicles ends,” said Eric Lyman, TrueCar’s vice president of industry insights.
Marc Cannon, chief marketing officer and senior vice president of communications for dealer network AutoNation Inc., said VW officials have told AutoNation “very little.”
“It’s information to assure customers it’s not a safety issue and to assure customers VW is diligently working on the situation and to be patient,” he said.
Cannon said its dealer network had already pulled remaining VW diesels from its inventory and is getting a number of calls from concerned owners. He said AutoNation is waiting until after the weekend to determine if showroom traffic at Volkswagen dealers has been affected.
Several class-action lawsuits have been filed nationally against Volkswagen over the diesel emissions issue.
Law offices that have filed the suits say they have been inundated with calls from concerned Volkswagen owners who feel duped. Many purchased the cars because they thought they were environmentally friendly. And they paid a premium, sometimes several thousand dollars more than models with a gasoline engine.
Clifford Law Offices in Chicago filed a class-action suit against Volkswagen that alleges deceptive business practices and violations of the Clean Air Act and consumer fraud laws. A representative of the firm said it has been contacted by hundreds of owners.
The firm says both representative clients named in the suit bought new Volkswagen Jettas “based upon the fraudulent advertising that the cars were eco-friendly and also provided outstanding gas mileage when, in fact, neither was true.”
Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP, a Seattle-based consumer rights law firm that has filed at least three class-action cases against Volkswagen, said it has received more than 3,000 inquires from consumers and expects to have plaintiffs soon from all 50 states. The lawsuits accuse Volkswagen of fraud, false advertising for the carmaker’s “Clean Diesel” cars, and violating federal and state laws.
“Hundreds of thousands of consumers put their trust in VW when they looked to its ‘Clean Diesel’ line for an efficient, environmentally conscious diesel option,” Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman, said in a statement. “But for years, VW cheated the system. Its TDI line of fast but ‘good-for-the-environment’ cars seemed too good to be true and they were.”