— Volkswagen's legal team must sweating bullets as attorneys for the beleaguered automaker face three new lawsuit filed by Maryland, Massachusetts and New York.
Volkswagen already agreed to pay about $15 billion as part of a program to buy back diesel cars and compensate owners, with about $10 million going to consumers. The rest is set to cover environmental issues and court cases, but with the new lawsuits from the three states, Volkswagen is questioning the purpose of the lawsuits.
The automaker believes by offering buyback programs and compensation the matter should be put to rest. But unlike any country in the world, lawsuits rule the day in the U.S. and VW seems stunned by the ongoing litigation taking place after the billions of dollars already offered.
The additional state lawsuits could subtract hundreds of millions of dollars more from VW's bank account.
The lawsuits were filed separately and include damning accusations against Volkswagen management and employees who allegedly knew the diesel vehicles promised to consumers would be impossible to build. Those vehicles were advertised as having "clean diesel" technology that was good on fuel economy, power and the environment.
According to the lawsuits, the automaker spent at least 10 years concealing illegal "defeat devices" to make the cars pass emissions tests in the lab, but back on the highways the cars emit up to 40 times the legal levels of nitrogen oxides.
Volkswagen allegedly jumped into so-called "clean diesel" technology due to the popularity of the Toyota Prius Hybrid, a car advertised as good for the environment. But Volkswagen engineers knew promises made in advertisements could never be replicated in the real world, so the automaker simply cheated, and did it for years.
Although Volkswagen said from the beginning the scandal was brought on by a few rogue engineers who concealed the fraud, the lawsuits say former CEO Martin Winterkorn was part of the cover-up.
The New York lawsuit claims Winterkorn knew in 2006 the diesel engines couldn't meet emissions standards unless a lot more money was spent per car.
The lawsuit also claims Matthias Muller knew in 2006 what Winterkorn knew. Muller was then in a management position at Audi, but Muller now wears a nametag that says "CEO." According to court documents, by 2014 Winterkorn and other management personnel knew about the illegal software but did nothing to stop the charade.
State officials allege more than 24 high-level VW employees and managers were part of the cheating, including the managers of major vehicle development departments within Audi, Porsche and VW.
To conceal evidence of the cheating, internal VW documents show that engineering department employees were told not to destroy documents but did it nonetheless. And while government investigators were asking questions, VW employees were feeling the heat, creating an atmosphere of paranoia.
One lawsuit says Volkswagen was having a collective breakdown as California environmental officials were asking questions about inaccurate emissions levels. According to internal VW emails, questions from California regulators caused a Volkswagen executive to email other executives imploring them to “Come up with the story, please!”
Documents also show engineers knew emissions defeat technology used in European diesel cars would then be used in American cars but did nothing to fix the problems.
Court documents claim VW used six different defeat devices in the cars for at least 10 years, starting with devices used overseas on Audi vehicles.
European diesel cars needed a device to stop the classic knocking noise of diesel engines when the engines start, but those devices caused emissions levels to shoot up too high. Volkswagen created a separate device for use on 2004-2008 models and that same device was included on American cars. However, the automaker didn't mention this fact to U.S. regulators or anyone else.
According to state authorities, New York says Audi, Porsche and Volkswagen exist based on "corporate arrogance" and the emissions scandal proves laws and public health means nothing to the automaker.
New York officials also had unkind words about bonuses awarded to VW management at a time when the company was facing hundreds of lawsuits and investigations worldwide.
CarComplaints.com will update our website with any court rulings concerning the emissions lawsuits.