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Volkswagen Settles U.S. Emissions Lawsuit After Nazi Comparisons

Updated on
  • Case one of three over marketing set to go before judge
  • Suit alleged company deceived customers by rigging emissions

Volkswagen AG’s U.S. unit agreed to settle a lawsuit over the company’s marketing of clean-emissions vehicles, resolving a fight over consumer fraud claims days before it was scheduled to go to trial.

The suit was dismissed on Friday by Fairfax County, Virginia, Circuit Court Chief Judge Bruce D. White on agreement of the parties, according to a copy of the filing provided by Michael Melkersen, lawyer for plaintiff David Doar, owner of a 2014 Jetta. The trial was to begin Feb. 26. Volkswagen Group of America Inc. is based in Herndon, Virginia.

Reuters reported the news Friday. Volkswagen declined to comment.

The trial was one of three scheduled for the first half of this year over claims that Volkswagen deceived customers with the rigging of emissions controls to perform differently when being tested than they do on the road. Melkersen has other cases filed in the same Fairfax County court.

Volkswagen has incurred about $30 billion in expenses since admitting in 2015 that it installed software on about 11 million diesel cars that allowed the vehicles to detect when they were being tested in laboratory conditions, seeking to boost sales of "clean diesel" automobiles that would conform to more strict emissions standards and appeal to consumers with environmental concerns. Two of its executives were sent to prison.

Nazi Comparison

The carmaker had sought to delay the consumer-fraud trials because of comments made by Melkersen, including remarks in a Netflix documentary where he compared emissions testing on monkeys to the Nazi use of poison gas in World War II. Through an intermediary, Volkswagen funded research on the effects of the vehicles’ emissions on laboratory monkeys, according to a segment on the first episode of the Netflix series "Dirty Money."

Volkswagen said it couldn’t defend the consumer-fraud lawsuits “in an atmosphere in which pretrial publicity has connected it directly with Hitler and the Holocaust and other horrors counsel has alleged.”

(Updates with Volkswagen declining to comment in third paragraph.)
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