By Brenda Flanagan
Ari Levin rarely drives his 2010 Passat diesel anymore. He’s furious that the car actually emits 40 times more pollution than what the the German car company promised when the environmentally-conscious film editor originally bought the vehicle.
“I felt betrayed. I felt like a sucker. That’s why I don’t really like driving the car anymore. It’s like a reminder like, ‘Oh, you got suckered into this,'” Levin said.
His Passat is among some half-million Volkswagen diesels sold in the US since 2009. Cars that passed inspection only because the company embedded software with a so-called “defeat” code specifically engineered to beat emissions regulations, Volkswagen admitted.
“They also lied to me in the first place. It’s consumer fraud,” he said. “I was furious. So we immediately tried to look into what we could do about it and that’s how we got to Nagel Rice.
“This is a classic case of fraud,” said Jay Rice.
Rice filed a class action lawsuit, the first in New Jersey against Volkswagen, and among the first nationwide, where 200 lawsuits now target the company. The Roseland law firm represents 40 clients, including Levin. They all want their money back.
“This is not an act that was unintentional and was discovered and later covered up. These were intentional acts that were hidden from view and in NJ we have a very strong Consumer Fraud Act, which we believe Volkswagen has clearly violated,” Rice said.
The CEO of Volkswagen’s American subsidiary admitted as much, in testimony before a Congressional subcommittee last week.
“I would like to offer a sincere apology, sincere apology, for Volkswagen’s use of a software program that served to defeat the regular emissions testing regime,” CEO of Volkswagen Group of America Michael Horn said.
Horn also mentioned that Volkswagen’s new 2016s might have an additional auxiliary emissions cheat code. Yesterday the company confirmed the 2016s will not be sold while the EPA investigates Volkswagen for alleged violations of the Clean Air Act.
“And we are determined to make things right. This includes accepting the consequences of our acts, providing a remedy and beginning to restore the trust of our customers, dealerships, employees, the regulators and the American public,” Horn said.
One NJ dealer told NJTV News, Volkswagen is standing behind all its dealers. The company estimated it could possibly take all of next year to fix the rigged diesels — a response Cong. Frank Pallone finds inadequate.
“We as Congress needs to make sure they do make these changes in a timely fashion, not as long as a year. But, then I think there has to be restitution for the damages that were suffered both by environment in general and well as to the individual buyers,” Pallone said.
“For everyone who owns one of these cars, I think the ability to resell it is virtually gone,” Rice said.
“I don’t think I could buy another Volkswagen again,” said Levin. “I don’t know how I’m supposed to trust a company that thinks they can get away with this.”
Volkswagen executives say they’ve put aside $7 billion to fix this problem, but with 11 million cars needing to be fixed worldwide, a growing scandal and accelerating class action lawsuits, the car maker is certainly facing trouble down the road.