PhotoA consumer group says Volkswagen mut offer to buy back all of the "clean diesel" cars equipped with software that lets them slip through emissions tests.

“VW once was a company that brought us iconic cars like the Beetle and the flower-powered microbus, but now VW is just a big cheater, said Ed Mierzwinski, Consumer Program Director of U.S. PIRG. “VW CEO Martin Winterkorn resigned ... while claiming he committed 'no wrongdoing' but VW must still pay full penalties under law and grant full rebates to the customers it deceived into buying pollution-spewing cars that led to massive, undeserved profits.”

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says Volkswagen built elaborate software — called a “defeat device” — to turn on emission controls during testing and turn them off during regular driving, emitting as much as 40 times the legal limit of smog-forming and lung-damaging pollutants.

“When they were caught, they denied it as long as they could but now VW admits it broke the law when it engaged in a scheme to trick pollution controls and ripped off hundreds of thousands of consumers who thought they were buying clean vehicles,” added Mierzwinski. “Our Make VW Pay Campaign will hold VW fully accountable while preventing future corporate lawbreaking that cheats consumers or places health, safety, wallets or the environment at risk.”

Key demands

Key elements of U.S. PIRG’s Make VW Pay Campaign include:

1. Volkswagen must offer to buy back all “defeat device” diesel cars with full rebates to customers. VW cheated customers in selling them a product that was different than advertised in material ways.

2. The EPA must demand tough penalties: For VW’s violation, the law calls for penalties up to $37,500 per car — or $18 billion total.

3. Congress must put an end to the auto industry’s “get out of jail free" loophole: Auto industry lobbyists have won and defended a loophole in the law that makes it harder to prosecute their executives for intentionally violating the law and putting the public at risk, U.S. PIRG said. It’s time to close that loophole and any others that threaten consumer safety or wallets.

4. The Department of Justice must stop allowing tax write-offs for wrongdoing.

“GM got off cheap with a $900 million penalty over its ignition switch defect and cover-up that reportedly led to as many as 124 deaths,” concluded Mierzwinski. “Let’s make sure VW pays, that its customers get justice and that corporate crime no longer pays.”

U.S. PIRG is the federation of state Public Interest Research Groups. PIRGs are non-profit, non-partisan public interest advocacy organizations.

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