Noble McIntyre on September 29, 2015
Is your vehicle part of the Volkswagen recall? The problems might be bigger than you think. Actually, the company’s problems are bigger than any of us thought – a scandal involving deceptive practices, fraudulent emissions tests and violations of U.S. standards came to light last week. You might have received notice of a Volkswagen recall several months ago, and even if you had the issue fixed, it might not be the end of the story.
It’s no secret that cars that run on gas or diesel fuel can contribute to air pollution. That’s why the federal government enacted the Clean Air Act. It’s designed to regulate air emissions and establish quality standards that, among other things, car manufacturers need to follow in order to ensure that cars are not giving off more hazardous air pollutants than they should be. The parts of the act that regulate vehicle emissions have been in place since 1970, so it’s not new, and it’s now been decades since manufacturers learned that they needed to be making cars that meet these standards.
The news broke last week that Volkswagen manufactured vehicles that had special software that was designed to misrepresent the amount of pollutants that the cars are putting into the air. In other words, the cars’ computers were programmed so that during an emissions test, they would emit low levels of harmful pollutants (that meet government standards), but outside of testing conditions (meaning, when being driven normally), they would have a much higher level of pollutants.
Of course, this is very bad for business, and it will affect the global economy in ways that we can’t yet predict. But, as the owner of a car subject to the Volkswagen recall, or any Volkswagen, you probably want to know how this affects you.
The vehicles that are part of the Volkswagen recall are emitting from 10 to 40 times the legal limit of nitrogen oxides. Nitrogen oxides contribute to ground-level ozone and form particulates that are linked to asthma and other respiratory illness.
The current Volkswagen recall involves 2009-2015 Jetta, Beetle, Golf and Audi A3 models; as well as 2014-2015 Passat sedans. However, some consumers’ vehicles were subject to a recall in April, and many of those people already had their cars fixed. Now, though, they’re wondering: Is my car really fixed? For most of these vehicles, the emissions issue doesn’t affect the driveability of the car. They’re still safe for drivers and passengers, and fine to be on the roads. The issue is that if you purchased a “clean diesel” Volkswagen because you wanted a vehicle that has a lesser environmental impact, you could be doing more harm than good. And, with any of the recalled models, they could fail your state’s required emissions testing, which means that they won’t pass inspection. If that happens, you won’t be able to legally drive your car.
Right now, Volkswagen has said that it will compensate consumers for any fixes that need to happen in order to make the vehicles’ emissions meet the standards for government regulation and meet the standards of those consumers who purchased them because of the cars’ supposed low emissions and environmental friendliness.
If you own a Volkswagen and your car is due for an inspection, do it. Right now, Volkswagens are continuing to pass most inspections, and you need to keep your inspection status up to date in order to drive legally. Once Volkswagen has determined what it needs to do to repair the affected cars, it will send a notice to consumers with instructions for how to have vehicles repaired in order to meet emissions standards. The fix should be at no cost to you.
There are likely to be plenty of Volkswagen lawsuits in the near future – fraudulent concealment, breach of contract, loss from diminished resale value of the cars, violations of consumer protection laws, and false advertising are going to be the biggest. Some people are saying that owners should be able to recover the premiums they paid for the diesel versions of the cars because they were purchased specifically for environmental reasons. As well, if the cars become less fuel-efficient once they are fixed, there is potential that consumers could attempt to recover for the cost of additional fuel. However, because this is all so new, we don’t know yet how it will all shake out. Stay tuned… if you’re a Volkswagen owner, this isn’t over yet. McIntyre Law will be sure to keep you informed of the developments as they happen. Stick with us!