San Francisco: Volkswagen AG’s plot to cheat emissions tests by installing so-called defeat devices in its vehicles wasn’t limited to diesel cars, but also included at least six models of Audi 3.0-litre petrol engines, according to a consumer lawsuit.
In a class action on behalf of owners of more than 100,000 vehicles, the German carmaker’s Audi unit was accused of installing software designed to beat emissions tests in its A6, A8, Q5 and Q7 cars since February 2013 and possibly earlier. Audi executives encouraged use of the devices in petrol-powered vehicles as recently as May, eight months after the diesel cheating was publicly disclosed, according to the complaint filed on Tuesday in Chicago federal court.
VW spokeswoman Jeannine Ginivan and Audi spokesman Mark Clothier declined to comment on the complaint.
The lawsuit comes two weeks after US District Judge Charles Breyer gave his final approval to VW’s $14.7 billion settlement covering 480,000 diesel cars with 2.0-litre engines, widely seen as a benchmark achievement for the carmaker. VW still doesn’t have an approved way to fix any of the 560,000 cars still polluting US roads.
Volkswagen shares were little changed at €116.70 at 9:05am in Frankfurt trading. The stock has lost almost 30% since the emissions scandal broke in September 2015, valuing the company at €61.5 billion ($67.2 billion).
The automaker faces a potential trial with owners of 3.0-liter diesel cars in the US, in addition to shareholder claims, environmental lawsuits by multiple states and criminal investigations by the US Justice Department and European authorities.
“Throughout the yearlong dieselgate scandal, Audi chose to continue to deceive consumers across the country with yet another emissions-cheating device installed in even more of its vehicles,” said attorney Steve Berman of Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP, the Seattle-based firm representing consumers in Wednesday’s complaint “This kind of flagrant disregard for federal environmental regulations and consumers’ expectations is unacceptable, and we intend to hold Audi to the law on behalf of those who overpaid for Audi’s noncompliant, polluting cars.”
While the algorithm-based defeat device in diesel cars would veil the vehicle’s real emissions, the gas cars are capable of detecting that the vehicle is in a testing bay and then shifts into “low rev” mode, according to the complaint.
“This modified shifting scheme effectively falsifies the vehicle’s emissions and fuel efficiency results by keeping the engine RPM artificially low, thereby using less fuel and emitting less carbon dioxide,” Audi owners alleged in the complaint.
The consumers seek unspecified damages including restitution from Audi’s sales and profit.
This case is Stokar v. Audi of America LLC, 16-cv-10456, US District Court, Northern District of Illinois (Chicago). Bloomberg