Arizona Files Lawsuit Against Volkswagen

PHOENIX – Attorney General Mark Brnovich filed a Consumer Fraud Lawsuit in Maricopa County Superior Court against Volkswagen, Audi, and Porsche for allegedly defrauding Arizonans by falsely advertising, selling, and leasing thousands of so-called environmentally friendly, low-emission Clean Diesel cars.  More than 4,000 Arizonans own so-called “Clean Diesel” Volkswagen, Audi, and Porsche vehicles.

“This appears to be one of the largest cases of false advertising we have ever seen and Arizona will be at the forefront of a nationwide effort to hold Volkswagen financially accountable,” said Attorney General Mark Brnovich. “By filing this lawsuit, we are ensuring Arizonans who were defrauded are best positioned to receive the restitution they’re entitled to.”

The lawsuit alleges Volkswagen fraudulently advertised, sold, and leased diesel vehicles to Arizonans as “clean” vehicles that were powerful and exceptionally fuel-efficient. The advertising, selling, and leasing of these diesel vehicles to Arizona citizens was plainly fraud: Volkswagen recently admitted that from 2008 to 2015 it and its Audi and Porsche subsidiaries installed “defeat device” software into the companies’ diesel engines in order to circumvent the EPA’s pre-sale certification testing. This software allowed the vehicles to appear as though they could obtain higher levels of power and fuel efficiency while also complying with EPA’s standards. In reality, the software resulted in the emission of as much as forty times the maximum allowed levels of nitrogen oxide pollutants. Put simply, these diesel vehicles could only comply with environmental standards in the laboratory test setting, when the “defeat device” software ensured that the engines ran below normal power and performance to improve emissions test results. 

Arizona consumers were subjected to numerous misleading advertisements about the affected diesel vehicles; advertising records show that Volkswagen, Audi, and Porsche ran tens of thousands of fraudulent diesel vehicle advertisements directed at Arizonans. Consumers who purchased or leased one of the affected diesel vehicles did not receive a car with the promised characteristics—rather than getting a “clean,” powerful, fuel-efficient car, Arizona consumers received a powerful, fuel-efficient car that emitted vastly more nitrogen oxide pollutants into the air than allowed.  Moreover, all indications are that any “fix” by Volkswagen and its subsidiaries is likely to substantially lower the fuel economy and power of the vehicles.  This means even if Volkswagen eventually makes right by the “clean” claim it made about its diesel cars, Arizona consumers will still not have the cars they thought they were buying, and instead will have less desirable vehicles that hold a substantially lower resale value.

“The Arizona Consumer Fraud Acts gives our office a powerful tool to combat this type of fraud,” said Attorney General Brnovich.  “This office will pursue all available claims on behalf of Arizonans while ensuring that Volkswagen’s future actions are done in an honest manner.”

The lawsuit seeks restitution and damages for Arizona consumers as well as civil penalties against Volkswagen.

The case against Volkswagen is being prosecuted by Civil Litigation Division Chief Counsel Paul Watkins and Assistant Attorney General Evan Daniels.  Because of the nature and size of the lawsuit, the Attorney General’s Office has also retained noted former federal prosecutor and United States District Judge Stephen Larson (ret.) of Larson O’Brien LLP and experienced vehicle manufacturer fraud and product liability attorney Richard McCune, of McCuneWright, LLP, to assist in the litigation.

For additional information, members of the media may contact Mia Garcia, Director of Media Relations at (602) 339-5895 or Mia.Garcia@azag.gov.

Full copy of the complaint filed.