The Feds Are Suing Volkswagen Over Deceptive 'Clean Diesel' Ads

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As news spread across the internet back in September that something was up with Volkswagen’s diesels, the automaker moved quickly to scrub its “Clean Diesel” ad campaign from its corporate Internet accounts. But it was too late, as the Feds were already on the Dieselgate trail. And now, the Federal Trade Commission is suing for false advertising.

Here’s one of the ads in question (conveniently re-posted to Youtube by a VW dealer), in which three women of a certain age debate whether or not Volkswagen diesels smell bad:

One of the women is adamant that something is definitely off with whatever is coming out of the tailpipe, while the other two dismiss her, and it all becomes a beautiful parable about listening to people who apparently know what the hell they’re talking about.


The lawsuit, brought by the FTC against Volkswagen USA for false advertising, is hoping to get billions of dollars for consumers above and beyond compensation for the actual sales of the cars, and in addition to an ongoing U.S. Justice Deparment lawsuit, as Reuters (via Automotive News) notes:

The FTC is seeking a court order requiring Volkswagen to compensate U.S. consumers who bought a polluting vehicle and an injunction to prevent future similar conduct by Volkswagen.


The lawsuit itself is pretty brutal in its language, too:

At all times material to this Complaint, acting alone or in concert with others, Volkswagen USA has advertised, marketed, offered for sale, sold, offered for lease, leased, and distributed motor vehicles to consumers throughout the United States, including various makes and models of diesel vehicles marketed as “Clean Diesel” (collectively, “Defeat Device Vehicles,” or “DDVs”).


Translation: “Clean diesel? More like crappy diesel, amirite????”

(Now imagine a whole bunch of FTC lawyers just high-fiving each other over that sick burn.)


But it’s not just the rather arbitrary turn of phrase that is “Clean Diesel” that’s landed VW in even more trouble, but a specific claim about its diesel emissions that is the issue:

According to Volkswagen USA’s marketing strategy materials, one of the “keymessages” it intended to convey through the word “clean” was that Clean Diesel vehiclesproduce “NOx emissions [that are] reduced by 95 percent[.]”


Volkswagen’s diesels did not in fact produce lowered NOx emissions. In reality, they produced NOx gases at levels far above legal limits – as much as 4,000 percent above those limits, the lawsuit notes.

The rest of the suit produces a litany of examples of Volkswagen touting its environmentally-friendly diesel credentials, all while some bad engineering was going on behind the scenes, and its advertising of high resale values among diesel vehicles.


Read the whole lawsuit here:

The FTC’s Lawsuit Against VW