New Mexico has become the first US state to file a lawsuit against VW over the ongoing emissions scandal.
Directed by attorney general Hector Balderas, the south-western state is accusing VW of breaching its legal emissions limits and of deceiving customers into thinking their vehicles were clean.
The lawsuit was filed in the state’s district court in Santa Fe and states that VW deliberately used marketing tools to convince customers they were buying environmentally friendly cars, despite knowing otherwise.
“Supported by a massive advertising campaign, defendants claimed that superior engineering allowed their cars to perform better, consume less fuel and emit fewer harmful pollutants than diesel cars of the past, making them a great fit for eco-conscious consumers,” it said in the lawsuit. “In fact, the complete opposite was true.”
According to New Mexico, VW delivered between 4000 and 10,000 affected cars within the state boundaries. It says the new cars produced between 30% and 40% more nitrogen oxide than regulation limits allowed.
Legal experts are suggesting that New Mexico’s case could be the first of many involving states. It’s not the first government body to open a case against the car maker, however, because earlier this month the US Justice Department sued VW on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency. That case could see VW fined up to $20 billion alone.
The situation in the US contrasts significantly with that in Europe. According to VW UK boss Paul Willis, the case in Europe isn’t comparable, because “over here we have a solution”. In yesterday’s Transport Select Committee meeting, he suggested that the illegal software featured in American cars was different from that of European cars but that the same team of engineers was responsible for writing both.
VW has developed a software fix for European cars which it claims not only reduces emissions but also improves driveability “due to advances in technology”. Conversely, regulators in the US have rejected VW’s proposals for a similar fix, stating that VW's recall plans lack enough information for a "technical evaluation", as well as not addressing "overall impacts on vehicle performance, emissions and safety".