FTC Charges Volkswagen With Deceptive Advertising

'Clean Diesel' Ads Come Under Fire in Wake of Emissions Scandal

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Volkswagen Clean Diesel
Volkswagen Clean Diesel Credit: Volkswagen
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Volkswagen Group of America deceived consumers with advertising that promoted "clean diesel" VWs and Audis that were later discovered as being fit with illegal emission defeat devices, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

The FTC alleges in a complaint filed in federal court that Volkswagen during a seven-year period "deceived consumers by selling or leasing more than 550,000 diesel cars based on false claims that the cars were low-emission, environmentally friendly, met emissions standards and would maintain a high resale value," according to an FTC statement issued today. The agency is seeking a court order requiring VW to compensate consumers who bought or leased any of the affected vehicles between late 2008 and late 2015, as well as an "injunction to prevent Volkswagen from engaging in this type of conduct again."

"For years Volkswagen's ads touted the company's 'Clean Diesel' cars even though it now appears Volkswagen rigged the cars with devices designed to defeat emissions tests," FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said in the statement. "Our lawsuit seeks compensation for the consumers who bought affected cars based on Volkswagen's deceptive and unfair practices."

The FTC complaint is the latest in a series of investigations launched since the emissions-cheating scandal broke in September. VW began pulling its "clean diesel" ads after the scandal broke. VW's U.S. creative agency is Deutsch Los Angeles and its PR agency is Edelman. VW-owned Audi uses San Francisco-based Venables Bell & Partners. The complaint does not list any agencies as defendants.

Volkswagen in a statement said it "has received the complaint and continues to cooperate with all relevant U.S. regulators, including the Federal Trade Commission. Our most important priority is to find a solution to the diesel emissions matter and earn back the trust of our customers and dealers as we build a better company."

The FTC complaint alleges that VW "promoted its supposedly 'clean' cars through a high-profile marketing campaign that included Super Bowl ads, online social media campaigns, and print advertising, often targeting 'environmentally-conscious' consumers," according to the statement.

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