Last week, Marcus and Elisabeth kicked off a cross-country road trip to Volkswagen headquarters in Virginia to make VW pay for misleading consumers and polluting our air. Marcus and Elisabeth own one of the 567,000 diesel vehicles in the U.S. that Volkswagen sold as “clean” but was secretly designed with a “defeat device” to emit as much as 40 times the legal limit for smog-forming pollutants.
Danny Katz, CoPIRG director, helped load their TDI car with petitions before they left. They will be stopping in Texas, the Midwest, and the Northeast to pick up thousands more to deliver when they arrive in Virginia.
They are blogging their trip as they drive:
After extensive thought, we purchased the Jetta for a combination of reasons: (1) efficiency, high-mileage and thus low carbon emissions; (2) a reputation for safety to us, to others, and to the environment; and (3) performance. We based our purchase on VW’s reputation for engineering excellence and the advertisement of that through its “clean-diesel” and “Das Auto” campaigns.
Unfortunately, the “clean-diesel” message was fraudulent. VW had installed a “defeat device” to mislead not just customers but also government regulators and society as a whole.
This is not a victimless crime. The high levels of Nitrous Oxide (NOx) emitted by VW cars — reportedly up to 40 times legal levels — make each car emit the equivalent of an eighteen wheeler. NOx emissions contribute to smog and are a major cause of respiratory disease and death. We see little ethical difference between directly killing someone and doing it indirectly in a way where the deaths are known to occur but are much more difficult to trace.
However, Volkswagen has so far only committed to sending out $1000 in gift cards and to eventually retrofit the cars to reduce the air pollution coming from the tail pipes. That is not enough and hardly makes up for the harm caused by deceiving consumers and polluting the environment. We need to make sure VW pays.
The VW scandal has cost us personally. To replace the car and compensate for the excess pollution we’ve unwittingly emitted, we’ve purchased an electric vehicle for all local travel. In addition, the resale value of the Jetta has declined substantively and, if it was sold, the emissions it generates would continue to impose a massive cost on society. Thousands of other VW owners are in a similar position. Such costs and those VW has imposed on society as a whole should be compensated.
News media reports suggest that retrofitting cars such as ours to meet emissions requirements could only be achieved through reductions in performance and mileage. This is unacceptable. Performance affects safety. Mileage influences carbon emissions, the major contributor to climate change.
As they travel across the country, please follow their story, join in along the way, and send a petition to fill their car link to petition.
We will continue the updates at makeVWpay.org but you can also follow Marcus and Elisabeth on their own blog at whatnextvw.org.
Director, Consumer Campaign, PIRG
Mike directs U.S. PIRG’s national campaign to protect consumers on Wall Street and in the financial marketplace by defending the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and works for stronger privacy protections and corporate accountability in the wake of the Equifax data breach. Mike lives in Washington, D.C.