Volkswagen Consumers Vent Frustrations Over Diesel-Emissions Scandal


volkswagen consumer

(Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg)

This morning the Federal Trade Commission sued Volkswagen over alleged violations of federal law related to the automaker’s marketing of its TDI “Clean Diesel” vehicles.

Those vehicles were outfitted with illegal technology known as defeat devices, which allowed them to pass emissions tests despite emitting more pollution than allowed. More than six months after Volkswagen’s diesel emissions issues were announced, about 580,000 noncompliant vehicles remain on the road.

Late Friday, the California Air Resources Board posted more than 100 pages of correspondence related to the Volkswagen investigation, including many letters from VW vehicle owners that illustrate consumer frustration with the automaker.

The complete correspondence is available on CARB’s website, but below are some highlights.

Many owners want to know why a fix is taking so long:

“It’s the end of January 2016 and no real progress on stopping VW drivers from polluting their own communities with dirty diesel emissions…It’s outrageous that they continue to collect my money in the form of lease payments to drive their polluting TDI clean diesel.” – Jan. 25 e-mail to CARB

“I am normally a patient man, but as I see it VW is STALLING. I am becoming angry that I cannot trade or sell the car.” – Feb. 7 e-mail to CARB

Just a few days after Valentine’s Day, this upset VW owner was ready to break up with his car: 

“I continue to make payments to Volkswagen every month knowing that they deceived me. Imagine your live-in girlfriend/boyfriend who swore to never cheat...later cheated on you, and you want to break up, but you signed a thirty-six month lease together. I am ready to ‘move out’ on my car lease.” – Feb. 18 e-mail to CARB

Many VW owners cited the environmental benefits of VW’s “Clean Diesel” cars as the reason for their purchase:

“I am also an avid environmentalist; I’ve worked with the Sierra Club and other organizations to help pass the legislation that the car you sold was built to deceive... I want this car out of my garage” – Nov. 5 e-mail to Volkswagen that was forwarded to CARB

“We paid $2,400 extra for the diesel version of the wagon. We knew we wouldn’t earn that money back in fuel savings, as we drive less than 6,000 miles per year…Rather, we did it because we believed it was the right thing to do. We wanted to use less fossil fuels by driving a highly fuel efficient clean diesel vehicle” --Feb. 10 e-mail to CARB

Environmental and consumer advocates have called for regulators to require some sort of buy back program for VW owners who don’t want to keep their car. These owners agree:

“I would suggest…that they be bought back for their purchase price. This situation is not comparable to being able to get a prorated refund on a poor mattress. This pollution problem started on day 1 with each automobile” – Dec. 1 e-mail to Gov. Jerry Brown (D)

“VW should offer to buy back the offending cars from their original owners for the purchase price. If the owner agrees to that, VW should not be subject to the EPA fine.” --Dec. 6 e-mail to Matt Rodriquez, California’s secretary for environmental protection

Last week I highlighted the difficulties Volkswagen may face in implementing a recall if a technical fix is found. This angry VW owner seems like he won’t be participating:

“Tell [CARB Chairwoman] Mary Nichols that if CARB doesn't force Volkswagen to buyback my TDI then I vow to extend the life of the vehicle indefinitely and pollute as much as possible out of spite.” – March 9 e-mail to CARB