September 22, 2015

Dirty Diesel

Volkswagen and Audi have been caught cheating the American public. Big time. The scandal has shattered Volkswagen's populist image. Millions of cars are affected. Billions of dollars in fines are at stake. Car owners are furious. The German magazine Der Tagesspeigel reports that CEO Martin Winterkorn is out. Class action lawsuits, government penalties, and possibly criminal charges will follow. What, exactly, is going on?VW.jpg

Last Friday, the Environmental Protection Agency sent Volkswagen AG, along with its affiliates Audi AG and the Volkswagen Group, an official Notice of Violation concerning its use of an illegal "defeat device", used to evade emissions testing. You can read that letter here.

The EPA explains, "These cars contain software that turns off emissions controls when driving normally, and turns them on when the car is undergoing an emission test. Known as a “defeat device,” this design feature results in the cars emitting up to 40 times the amount of NOx emissions that the standards allow. NOx standards are in place to ensure public health is protected." The use of such a "defeat device" is highly illegal.

No sooner did this announcement hit the press than VW admitted its misconduct. That it is only now admitting its intentional and deliberate cheating practices is shocking. Although the scandal only just became public, VW knew it was caught as early as May 2014. And yet, it continued to install the devices on new cars being sold.

VW never thought it would get caught, and the fact that it did at all is a bit of a fluke.

Daniel Carder, a professor at West Virginia University's Statler College of Engineering, and team of five including two grad students, performed a study that found much higher on-road diesel emission levels for VW vehicles than what official U.S. testers were seeing. At first they couldn't believe the results, but confirmatory testing produced early evidence Volkswagen was cheating on U.S. vehicle emissions tests. That study was funded by the nonprofit International Council on Clean Transportation. They were actually looking for proof that diesel could be a clean fuel. The results caught even the testers by surprise. You can read more about the ICCT here.

"The testing we did kind of opened the can of worms," Daniel Carder, the mild-mannered West Virginia researcher who lead the investigative team, says. That is an understatement.

The study, completed in May 2014, was later corroborated by the United States Environmental Protection Agency and California Air Resources Board.

VW has been heavily marketing its small diesel cars as the Clean Green alternative for years. But even as it was launching a media campaign to lure environmentally responsible buyers, VW was brazenly equipping more than 11 million vehicles with the deceptive device over a period of more than 6 years. The affected diesel models include:

Jetta (MY 2009 – 2015)
Jetta Sportwagen (MY 2009-2014)
Beetle (MY 2012 – 2015)
Beetle Convertible (MY 2012-2015)
Audi A3 (MY 2010 – 2015)
Golf (MY 2010 – 2015)
Golf Sportwagen (MY 2015)
Passat (MY 2012-2015)

Consumers can get further information from the EPA here.

Consumers can get information about legal cases filed in California by contacting the law firm at

July 10, 2010

Many Suitors for Tesla Motors Technology

Tesla Motors’ dance card is filling up fast. Tesla announced last May that it will make music with Toyota in producing all-electric vehicles at the dormant NUMMI plant in Freemont, California (see “Toyota Closes NUMMI Plant in California,“ posted on this blog April 1, 2010). The new high-tech facility at the site of the old NUMMI plant will be renamed The Tesla Factory. tesla-model-s-sedan_100227083_l.jpg It is there that the two companies intend to produce the Tesla Model S, its first sedan. The Tesla-Toyota union is moving ahead quickly, with the delivery of two prototype electric vehicles as early as this month. The Model S is expected to hit the market in 2012.

Tesla Motors stepped back into the spotlight with an IPO on June 29, 2010. The initial public offering of stock has been hailed as a success for the company, in spite of the market’s general rollercoaster performance last spring. After ending its first day with a sharp spike of $23.89, the stock (TSLA) has settled down and is now trading at $17.40, just above the initial public offering price of $17.00.

Meanwhile, lest we think that Tesla and Toyota are going steady, the media reports that Tesla is whispering with Daimler as well. “Tesla is also working with Germany's Daimler AG on electric vehicles and has supplied battery packs for use in Daimler's Smart minicars. Daimler has also invested at least $50 million in Tesla,” according to the trade publication Automotive News.

Coy, competitive and trendy, tiny Tesla is making some big moves with more than one dance partner. No one should be surprised at a company whose tag line is “Declare Independence.” But who ever thought batteries could be so sexy? For the company website click here.

March 16, 2010

Kemnitzer, Barron & Krieg Launches New Website

Kemnitzer, Barron & Krieg LLP, the host of this California Lemon Law Blog, has just launched a new website with a Q&A section on a variety of consumer protection areas, ongoing consumer alerts, attorney biographies, internet resources, a bibliography and contact links. Check it out here

The firm represents consumers throughout California and has, to date, filed cases in 34 separate California counties. Bryan Kemnitzer, Nancy Barron and Bill Krieg have a combined 99 years experience as trial attorneys fighting to protect consumer rights.

Supported by a dedicated staff, attorneys in the firm have taken individual and class action cases to trial, obtaining verdicts and judgments that include punitive damages and civil penalties. On the other hand, the vast majority of cases settle prior to trial. In settlement, Kemnitzer, Barron & Krieg have obtained debt relief exceeding $300 million, as well as thousands of new car replacements and refunds.

As California consumer lawyers, the members of the firm believe that every consumer is entitled to safe and reliable transportation, fair credit, truth in lending, access to the courts and freedom from fraud. All clients have the opportunity to learn more about consumer protection in ways that increase consumer literacy and save money, as well as resolve the particular case at hand.