FTC sues VW over false clean diesel claims

Being green isn’t always easy. So when Volkswagen (VW) said it developed technology that greatly reduces emissions of harmful nitrogen oxides (NOx) in its TDI “Clean Diesel” vehicles, environmentally-conscious consumers responded favorably, and sales of TDI vehicles in the U.S. increased substantially.

VW extensively promoted its “Clean Diesel” vehicles as environmentally friendly, having low emissions, and being legally compliant. Here’s a small sampling:

  • The Volkswagen Jetta’s clean diesel technology “reduces nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions by up to 90% by making internal engine modifications and implementing a NOx storage catalytic converter.”
  • Audi TDI “Clean Diesel” vehicles offer "fewer NOx emissions than comparable gasoline engines."
  • “Clean Diesel” vehicles “meet the strictest EPA standards in the U.S.”

The FTC is challenging a number of claims VW made about its diesel engine automobiles. Specifically, under its Volkswagen and Audi brands, Volkswagen sold or leased more than 550,000 vehicles containing concealed, illegal “defeat devices.” The devices contained software that hid the fact that the vehicles’ emissions greatly exceeded government emissions standards. The devices were programmed to turn on pollution controls during emissions testing and then turn them off when the cars were on the road. The government alleges that the cars emit as much as 40 times the allowable amount of NOx, which contributes to smog, acid rain, water quality deterioration, childhood asthma, respiratory ailments, and premature death.

So even though Volkswagen extensively marketed these vehicles as “clean” and legally compliant, the truth is, they are neither. The FTC says that widespread deception violated the FTC Act.

In addition to the FTC’s action, EPA and DOJ have sued VW for violations of the Clean Air Act, and, along with the FTC, are working on solutions for consumers. As soon as we know more, we’ll be right here to tell you more. So stay tuned for updates.

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Money & Credit


VW is not alone in deceptive advertising. Nissan has done the same thing even after an FTC Order where Nissan agreed not to do so.

Good work Now go After Dish Network AND the Health Insurance Rip-Offs

Thank you for doing this! We bought a "clean diesel" as an alternative to hybrids and now we are driving a vehicle that we can not trade in for a new vehicle. No one in California will take them. VW committed fraud, and consumers are due compensation for our loss in value and our inability to sell our vehicles at this time.

I'm one of those crazy libertarian folks who's generally wary of government overreach and regulatory scope creep. That said, I am glad that the FTC is diligent in investigating false advertising like this. If people can lie and get away with it, free markets don't work.

Thank you for all your great concern and tireless effort to support truth and integrity in the fight to protect our air we breate.

Thank you for taking this action. I am an environmental lawyer, and after some very detailed discussion with the VW sales rep, AND after careful research and comparison with a Honda Accord Hybrid, we bought the Passat TDI diesel, only to learn about this fraud weeks later. We are furious, and would gladly provide testimony to advance this lawsuit. I am very much at your disposal for this purpose. Tim

You can report your experience to the FTC by filing a complaint at ftc.gov/complaint. The information you give will go into a database that law enforcement uses for investigations.

Blog comments don't go into the database. And, per the blog comment policy, we don't publish personal information or email addresses.

I believed the information that was provided in hard-copy and through advertising by the automaker. I used numerous automotive trade publications to make a decision to buy a TDI. Too bad the automaker cheated and reported non-representative data.

I like my car and want it fixed. I don't want a new car. The new model of my car is 400-lbs lighter and doesn't come in a TDI.

I would like to see the automaker punished through large punitive fines for the deceptive advertising and the incalculable effects of the defeat devices. I would like to see a reasonable settlement offered for the vehicle recall.

I bought an 09 q7 tdi 3/22/16 been at shop 3 times now at audi dealership. I bought the car to drive other places than the repair shop. Im glad the ftc and epa is involved maybe they will fix it this time at the dealership

I am part of the class action lawsuit against VW. I have purchased three vw jetta diesel cars from them brand new since 2006, traded 06 for 20!3 and then traded 13 for 2015 which I currently still own. Very saddened by their deceit to consumers. I'm hoping I can get settlement on 13 and 15 as I paid for something twice I did not get. VW has lost a good customer.


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