Volkswagen has been granted a four-week deadline extension to produce an acceptable plan to fix nearly 600,000 diesel cars installed with the emissions test cheating software. In the meantime, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has filed a suit for VW to compensate affected American consumers for the automaker’s allegedly deceptive marketing.
United States District Judge Charles Breyer is presiding over a multidistrict litigation (MDL) with over 500 consolidated class action lawsuits and another suit involving the US Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This court will also be hearing the FTC’s new suit. Judge Breyer has allowed the extension based on evidence of VW’s progress towards planning the fix.
The extension pushes the deadline to April 21st, giving VW ample time to present a “highly specific proposal.” Should VW fail to present a proposal at that time, Judge Breyer will move forward with taking VW to trial. If that happens, he could order the automaker to refund consumers in restitution.
What does the deadline extension mean for car owners?
The German automaker faces a potential $46 billion fine for the scandal’s environmental impact from the US Department of Justice and all 50 state attorneys general. In addition, VW faces financial losses from angry car owners whose vehicles’ values have been significantly impacted by the scandal.
Both VW’s own Chief Executive Officer Matthias Mueller and California Air Resources Board (CARB) Enforcement Division Chief Todd Sax had previously voiced concerns that the automaker would be unable to present a full fix by the former deadline. Whether VW or CARB has found renewed confidence on the matter in light of the extension remains to be seen. However, VW issued the following statement after Thursday’s hearing:
Volkswagen is committed to resolving the U.S. regulatory investigation into the diesel emissions matter as quickly as possible and to implementing a solution for affected vehicles, as we work to earn back the trust of our customers and dealers and the public. We continue to make progress and are cooperating fully with the efforts undertaken by Judge Breyer, working through Director Mueller, to bring about a prompt and fair resolution of the U.S. civil litigation.
VW may be close to presenting a fix to most, if not all affected vehicles that will meet road-safe emissions regulations, which could restore vehicle value.
If VW fails to meet the deadline and is taken to court, car owners suing VW may end up having to make a decision: Accept whatever settlement is defined by the court—including a buyback or restitution—or have their vehicles fixed if an impartial fix option is available. The impartial fix will allegedly let owners continue using their vehicles. Emissions standards won’t allow them to renew their registration in the vehicles’ current unfixed state.
Some owners may not wish to return their vehicles because they like the vehicles’ higher performance compared to their gasoline-fueled counterparts. In that case, the partial fix may be the best option if they want to keep their vehicle street-legal as the fix may not affect performance.
FTC Files a Lawsuit for the People
The lawsuit seeks to address VW’s deceptive marketing campaigns highlighting their TDI vehicles as environmentally safe. Both the Department of Justice and consolidated cases of over 500 consumer suits are being heard in the same California court.
The FTC’s complaint highlights VW’s “Three Old Wives Talk Dirty” ad campaign—which touts VW TDIs as “clean diesel” vehicles while actually emitting 40 times the legal limit of NOx.
The FTC’s suit could help expedite the settlement of the over 500 class action lawsuits VW still faces. The exact amount the FTC seeks in remediation is currently unknown but is estimated to be near $15 billion plus in damages.
What are my legal options?
While the deadline extension allows VW time to come up with a complete fix plan, four weeks is not a lot of time to work with. You can find out what legal recourse is available to take by talking with an attorney familiar with the laws concerning the TDI scandal and having your case reviewed. Visit Legal Advocate Link to get in touch with an experienced attorney today.