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For Volkswagen, it’s not easy being green

Created date

November 7th, 2016

Green, as in environmentally friendly, is a popular buzzword these days. Everything from juice boxes to appliances claims “green” status because manufacturers know protecting the environment is a priority for many consumers.

However, in the immortal words of Kermit the Frog, “It’s not easy being green.” This is especially true for German automaker Volkswagen. After making false claims about green technology in its cars, the company will pay out billions of “green” to compensate duped consumers. 

Starting in 2008, Volkswagen began touting its newly developed “Clean Diesel” technology. Found in TDI Jettas, Passats, Golfs, and Beetles, as well as the TDI Audi A3, the company said it greatly reduced emissions of harmful nitrogen oxides (NOx).  

These claims were heavily promoted and advertised, and not surprisingly, U.S. sales of TDI vehicles rose. The only problem was that Volkswagen cheated on the emissions tests. The cars environmentally conscious consumers had purchased were, in fact, spewing harmful chemicals into the atmosphere.

Volkswagen allegedly equipped its 2.0-liter diesel vehicles with illegal software that detects when the car is being tested for compliance with EPA or state emissions standards and turns on full emissions controls only during that testing process. During normal driving conditions, the software renders certain emission control systems inoperative, greatly increasing emissions. 

‘Defeat device’

This is known as a “defeat device.” Use of the defeat device results in cars that meet emissions standards in the laboratory but emit harmful NOx at levels up to 40 times EPA-compliant levels during normal on-road driving conditions. 

“By duping the regulators, Volkswagen turned nearly a half million American drivers into unwitting accomplices in an unprecedented assault on our atmosphere,” said California deputy attorney general Sally Q. Yates. 

In June 2016, Volkswagen agreed to settle the case. They will offer a buyback and lease termination for nearly 500,000 model year 2009-2015 2.0-liter diesel vehicles sold or leased in the U.S., and spend up to $10 billion to compensate consumers under the program. 

“Consumers who were cheated by Volkswagen’s deceptive advertising campaign will be able to get full and fair compensation,” says FTC chairwoman Edith Ramirez.  “Not only for the lost or diminished value of their car but also for the other harms that VW caused them.”

In addition, Volkswagen will spend $4.7 billion to mitigate the pollution from their vehicles and invest in green vehicle technology.

“[This] settlement restores clean air protections that Volkswagen so blatantly violated,” says EPA administrator Gina McCarthy. “And it secures billions of dollars in investments to make our air and our auto industry even cleaner for generations of Americans to come.”

To see if you are eligible for compensation from Volkswagen, visit or You can also use these websites to make claims, sign up for appointments at local VW or Audi dealers, and receive updates.