The county that contains Houston has filed suit against Volkswagen, alleging that the automaker has thrust unwarranted pollution on the USA’s fourth largest city.
Harris County is seeking up to $100 million in the lawsuit that County Attorney Vince Ryan filed.
“I think the fraud is going to be relatively easy to prove,” said Houston lawyer Richard Mithoff, who is representing the county in the case.
Earlier this month, Volkswagen admitted to installing stealth software that manipulated emissions tests in 11 million of its diesel vehicles worldwide. Controls would turn on during emissions tests so the vehicles would pass but remain off during regular use to improve customers’ fuel economy.
“Volkswagen vehicles released nitrogen oxide at levels that far exceed allowable standards,” the lawsuit alleges. “NOx is a contributor to ozone formation, for which Harris County is currently designated as non-attainment.”
Dozens of lawsuits from several states already have been filed against the German automaker, most often by diesel owners who face uncertain repairs and whose vehicles have lost value because of the revelations. Most seek class-action status.
Independent car dealers in California also have filed suit, and a Michigan pension fund alleges that holders of Volkswagen’s American depository receipts (VLKAY) have lost hundreds of millions of dollars of their retirement investments. Attorneys general in more than half the states also are opening investigations into the automaker and what appears to be longstanding fraud.
“It kind of makes me question some things,” said Riley Collins, a Volkswagen owner who lives in the Houston area. “That really stirs up some ideas in my head like maybe I don’t know what I’m driving or the company that I had a lot of pride in.”
In Texas, diesel owners don’t have to pass emissions tests. However, Ryan said at least 6,000 Harris County VW owners may be in trouble out of state.
“Everybody in the world probably knows that the emissions override that they have on their system isn’t valid,” the Harris County attorney said.
Although Volkswagen has promised a remedy soon, Harris County hired extra lawyers to force Volkswagen to pay for years of pollution.
“We want to get these cars fixed or replaced,” Ryan said. “Each of the consumers that bought one of these cars thought they were buying what was environmentally a good car to buy to only find out they were deceived.”