News Release


Illinois PIRG Demands Real Penalties for Volkswagen and Full Rebates for Customers

Launches “Make VW Pay Campaign” as Volkswagen Chief Resigns
For Immediate Release

Illinois PIRG today demanded that Volkswagen be held fully accountable for its “defeat device” scheme to trick EPA pollution tests. They also called for full rebates to the nearly 500,000 customers deceived into joining the scheme by VW’s false promises of “clean” diesel cars.

“VW was once a company that brought us iconic cars like the Beetle and the flower-powered microbus, but now VW is just a big cheater," said Abe Scarr, director of Illinois PIRG. “VW CEO Martin Winterkorn resigned today while claiming he committed “no wrongdoing” but VW needs to 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. 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 by scheming to trick pollution controls and ripped off hundreds of thousands of consumers who thought they were buying clean vehicles,” added Scarr. “Our Make VW Pay Campaign will hold VW fully accountable while preventing future corporate lawbreaking that cheats consumers or places their health, safety, wallets or the environment at risk.”

Illinois PIRG’s Make VW Pay Campaign includes the following:

  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.
  1. 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.
  1. Congress must put an end to the auto company’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.
  1. The Department of Justice must stop allowing tax write-offs for wrongdoing: Illinois PIRG has fought against tax write-offs for JP Morgan, BP and other companies when they were forced to pay penalties for violations of our laws and will continue 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 Scarr. “Let’s make sure VW pays, that its customers get justice and that corporate crime no longer pays.”

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