News Release


Mike Litt,

We Launch “Make VW Pay Campaign” Over EPA Cheating Scandal

We Demand Full Rebates To Customers, Full Penalties To EPA
For Immediate Release

Washington, DC—A leading consumer group today demanded that Volkswagen be held fully accountable for its “defeat device” scheme to trick EPA pollution tests. The group also called for full rebates in buy backs to the nearly 500,000 customers deceived into joining the scheme by VW’s false promises of “clean” diesel cars.

“VW once was a company that brought us iconic cars like the Beetle and the flower-powered microbus, but now VW is just a big cheater, said Ed Mierzwinski, Consumer Program Director of U.S. PIRG. “VW CEO Martin Winterkorn resigned today while claiming he committed “no wrongdoing” but VW must still pay full penalties under law and grant full rebates to the customers it deceived into buying pollution-spewing cars that led to massive, undeserved profits.”

The EPA says Volkswagen designed some 482,000 “clean" diesel cars to get away with violating the law. They built elaborate software — called a “defeat device” — to turn on emission controls during testing and turn them off during regular driving, emitting as much as 40 times the legal limit of smog-forming pollutants. Mierzwinski added that reports indicate as many as 11 million cars worldwide are equipped with the “defeat device.”

“When they were caught, they denied it as long as they could but now VW admits it broke the law when it engaged in a scheme to trick pollution controls and ripped off hundreds of thousands of consumers who thought they were buying clean vehicles,” added Mierzwinski. “Our Make VW Pay Campaign will hold VW fully accountable while preventing future corporate lawbreaking that cheats consumers or places health, safety, wallets or the environment at risk.”

Key elements of U.S. PIRG’s Make VW Pay Campaign include:

1. Volkswagen must offer to buy back all “defeat device” diesel cars with full rebates to customers. VW cheated customers in selling them a product that was different than advertised in material ways.

2. The EPA must demand tough penalties: For VW’s violation, the law calls for penalties up to $37,500 per car — or $18 billion total.

3. Congress must put an end to the auto industry’s “get out of jail free" loophole: Auto industry lobbyists have won and defended a loophole in the law that makes it harder to prosecute their executives for intentionally violating the law and putting the public at risk. It’s time to close that loophole and any others that threaten consumer safety or wallets.

4. The Department of Justice must stop allowing tax write-offs for wrongdoing: We’ve fought against tax write-offs for JP Morgan, BP and other companies when they were forced to pay penalties for violations of our laws. We’ll keep fighting to end these write-offs for VW, GM and other companies.

“GM got off cheap with a $900 million penalty over its ignition switch defect and cover-up that reportedly led to as many as 124 deaths,” concluded Mierzwinski. “Let’s make sure VW pays, that its customers get justice and that corporate crime no longer pays.”

U.S. PIRG serves as the federation of state Public Interest Research Groups. PIRGs are non-profit, non-partisan public interest advocacy organizations that stand up to powerful interests whenever they threaten our health and safety, our financial security, or our right to fully participate in our democratic society. On the web at

Priority Action

We're teaming up with big restaurant chains to stop the overuse of antibiotics on factory farms. Call on KFC to stop selling meat raised on routine antibiotics.

Support Us

Your donation supports U.S. PIRG’s work to stand up for consumers on the issues that matter, especially when powerful interests are blocking progress.

Consumer Alerts

Join our network and stay up to date on our campaigns, get important consumer updates and take action on critical issues.
Optional Member Code