Volkswagen Customers Drive Cross-Country to Return Defective Diesel Car

Media Contacts
Abe Scarr

State Director, Illinois PIRG; Energy and Utilities Program Director, PIRG

Seeking Full Compensation for Consumers and Environment from VW Headquarters

Illinois PIRG Education Fund

A Boulder, Colorado couple, Marcus Moench and Elisabeth Caspari, made a stop in Chicago on their cross-country drive to Volkswagen headquarters in Herndon, Virginia. The couple is seeking to return their 2011 Jetta SportWagen TDI and drop off over 20,000 petitions calling on the company to fully compensate consumers and the environment for the emission scandal affecting over half a million cars marketed as “clean diesel” in the United States.

They were joined in Chicago by local Volkswagen customer, Dave Mann, and Abe Scarr of Illinois PIRG Education Fund.

“Volkswagen should be held accountable for intentionally deceiving consumers and violating the pollution control regulations that protect our environment,” Moench said at a press conference. “Fixing the cars is not enough. So that consumers can replace the cars with vehicles that compensate for the pollution already emitted, VW should offer to buy back the cars at full price. The fines paid by VW should be applied to additional projects that offset the damage to people’s health and the environment caused by their ‘defeat devices.’”

The EPA says Volkswagen installed “defeat devices” on some 567,000 “clean” diesel cars in the US market to avoid emission control laws. These devices are elaborate software that turn on emission controls during testing and turn them off during regular driving, emitting as much as 40 times the legal limit of NOx, a major smog-forming pollutant. As many as 11 million cars worldwide are equipped with the “defeat device.”

Attorney General Lisa Madigan has joined at least 27 other state attorneys general in a multi-state investigation examining how Volkswagen misrepresented its diesel cars to consumers.

“My office is involved in a multi-state investigation in an effort to ensure that impacted Illinois consumers are treated fairly and that Volkswagen provides some answers and a resolution to this issue,” said Madigan.

Abe Scarr, Director of Illinois PIRG Education Fund added “Volkswagen’s customers set out to purchase high-performance, low-emission vehicles with good fuel economy. Simply fixing the cars still leaves them less than whole:  their cars could get lower gas mileage and have weaker performance. And, the blue book values for these cars will likely diminish further. Even worse, fixing the cars provides no compensation for the excess pollutants already emitted or the smog-forming pollutants they will continue to emit until they are fixed.”

Pollution is not a victimless crime. VW’s diesels emit 40 times the legal limit of NOx. The smog this creates is a major contributor to respiratory disease and associated deaths. 

Marcus and Elisabeth are coordinating their cross-country drive with Illinois PIRG Education Fund’s “Make VW Pay” campaign to hold Volkswagen accountable for deceiving half a million U.S. consumers into buying pollution-spewing cars that led to massive, undeserved profits. Key elements of this 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. The fines paid by VW should be applied to projects that will offset the damage to people’s health and the environment caused by their ‘defeat devices.’

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. 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: We’ve fought against tax write-offs for JP Morgan, BP and other companies when they were forced to pay penalties for violations of our laws. We’ll keep fighting to end these write-offs for VW, GM and other companies.

5. The Department of Transportation should enforce strong federal fuel efficiency standards. 

Chicago is the first second stop for Marcus and Elisabeth. They are continuing to Detroit, and New York City on their way to Volkswagen’s headquarters in Herndon, Virginia.

“Americans from California to Texas and Illinois to Massachusetts expect VW to be held accountable to their customers and the environment,” said Moench.