Idaho News

Idaho to receive millions as its share of Volkswagen settlement

A Volkswagen Touareg diesel is tested in the Environmental Protection Agency's cold temperature test facility in Ann Arbor, Mich.
A Volkswagen Touareg diesel is tested in the Environmental Protection Agency's cold temperature test facility in Ann Arbor, Mich. AP

Idaho will receive more than $2.6 million as its share of civil penalties agreed to by Volkswagen to settle government allegations that it rigged a series of emissions tests for its cars.

Idaho was one of 44 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico that sued the company following allegations that the company’s 2-liter and 3-liter diesel automobiles were programmed to turn on emissions controls only when hooked up to government testing equipment. The rest of the time, the automobiles operated without the mandated controls meant to reduce emissions.

“The scope of Volkswagen’s fraudulent actions was unfathomable,” Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden said. “Ensuring that companies make truthful statements and claims about their products is important to consumers and essential for the marketplace to work properly.”

Attorney General Lawrence Wasden says Volkswagen has agreed to pay millions of dollars to the state and Idaho consumers for violating consumer protection laws and selling and leasing vehicles equipped with technology designed to circumvent environmental laws and regulations. The company sold 2,506 of the tainted vehicles to Idaho buyers.

Under the settlement, Volkswagen must also make cash payments to consumers estimated at $5,100 per eligible Volkswagen owners and either buy back or modify certain Volkswagen and Audi 2-liter diesel vehicles sold in the state.

Wasden’s office joined a coalition of states in 2015 to investigate claims the company violated state consumer protection laws.

The joint state investigation confirmed that Volkswagen sold hundreds of thousands of 2- and 3-liter diesel vehicles in the United States equipped with “defeat device” software intended to circumvent emission standards for air pollutants. The company also tried to conceal the existence of the device from regulators and the public, Wasden said.

At the same time, Volkswagen repeatedly made false and misleading statements to consumers in their marketing and advertising campaigns. The company claimed the vehicles were environmentally friendly — or “green” — and in compliance with emission standards, when in fact, Volkswagen knew the vehicles were emitting harmful nitrogen oxide at rates many times higher than allowed by law. Nitrogen oxide can cause respiratory problems in humans.

The settlement requires Volkswagen to implement a national restitution and recall program for more than 475,000 owners and lessees of 2-liter diesel vehicles from model years 2009 through 2015 at a cost of more than $10 billion.

Cash payments to consumers will commence once the settlements are approved by the courts. The total payout to Idaho consumers is estimated to be at least $12.8 million.

Volkswagen also agreed to pay $2.7 billion into a national trust to support environmental programs throughout the country to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions. Idaho will be eligible to receive $16.2 million for these mitigation programs;

At the same time, Volkswagen has committed to investing $2 billion over the next 10 years to the development of non-polluting cars, or zero emission vehicles;

Unless it can develop a suitable fix, VW may be forced to buy back all the 2-liter vehicles. But it appears from documents filed by the Justice Department and EPA that the technology might not be available to fix them. VW has been working on a fix since around the time the scandal broke.

The settlements also make benefits and restitution available to Volkswagen customers who leased vehicles.

The Associated Press contributed.

John Sowell: 208-377-6423, @IDS_Sowell