Class action lawsuit filed in Illinois on behalf of VW dealers harmed by Dieselgate emissions cheating scandal

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by Eric Pearson

The owner of three Chicago-area Volkswagen dealerships has filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of VW dealers nationwide in connection with the German automaker’s role in the Dieselgate emissions cheating scandal. The lawsuit—filed by Ed Napleton on behalf of his three Volkswagen dealerships in Illinois—is the first ever class action lawsuit against Volkswagen filed on behalf of VW franchise dealers.

Volkswagen admitted in September 2015 that it had installed a software “defeat device” on 11 million VW and Audi “TDI Clean Diesel” vehicles sold worldwide—including about 550,000 cars sold in the U.S. This defeat device made the VW and Audi diesel models appear to emit significantly lower emission levels than was actually the case. As a result of Volkswagen’s emissions cheating, VW and Audi owners have suffered significant financial losses as a result of declines in the value of their automobiles, difficulties in selling their cars, and problems with having their vehicles meet state and federal emissions standards.

Napleton’s lawsuit against Volkswagen alleges that VW dealers were also defrauded by the automaker through the use of the software “defeat device” in Volkswagen and Audi diesel models. The lawsuit alleges that Volkswagen’s emissions cheating and the subsequent decline in value for VW and Audi diesel models made dealers unable to sell these vehicles. The subsequent decline in the value of Volkswagen’s diesel models caused by the emissions scandal led to a sharp drop in dealer profits and the value of Volkswagen dealership franchises, the lawsuit contends.

Napleton alleges that in the same manner that customers were misled by Volkswagen’s fraudulent marketing of its VW and Audi “clean diesel” models, dealers were also deceived by the German automaker’s false claims regarding its TDI models. The class action suit contends that VW dealers collectively invested hundreds of millions of dollars to build new showrooms, purchase new facilities, and stock their vehicle lots with VW and Audi “TDI Clean Diesel” models as a result of Volkswagen’s misleading claims about its diesel cars. According to the lawsuit, Volkswagen “purposely and fraudulently induced its dealers to continue to invest in their dealership facilities and to otherwise benefit VW”.

The class action lawsuit filed by Napleton also alleges that Volkswagen forced dealers to join a floorplan-financing discount system overseen by Volkswagen Credit, Inc.—which was operated entirely by VW. The suit contends that VW dealerships that elected not to join the Volkswagen financing plan were placed at a competitive disadvantage to other dealers.

Volkswagen is also accused in the lawsuit of abandoning its long-running “stair step” programs, which provided dealers with financial assistance. Although Volkswagen stated that it would replace the programs with ones of equal or greater benefit, the lawsuit alleges that the company never followed through on these promises.

Lawsuits Filed Against Volkswagen on Behalf of VW and Audi Diesel Owners

The vehicles involved in the Volkswagen emissions cheating scandal include the 2009-2015 Audi A3 TDI, the 2016 Audi A6 Quattro, the 2016 Audi A7 Quattro, the 2016 Audi A8, the 2016 Audi A8L, the 2016 Audi Q5, the 2009-2015 Volkswagen Beetle TDI, the 2009-2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI, the 2009-2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI, the 2012-2015 Volkswagen Passat TDI, and the 2014 Volkswagen Touareg. Consumers who purchased or leased one of these models may be eligible to file a lawsuit and join the litigation that is already underway against Volkswagen.

The law firm of Heygood, Orr & Pearson has filed lawsuits on behalf of VW and Audi vehicle owners whose cars have been affected by the company’s emissions cheating. One of our partners, Michael Heygood, was recently named to the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee of attorneys who will oversee the early stages of the Multidistrict Litigation (or MDL) in California involving the Dieselgate scandal. Our attorneys expect to remain involved in these cases throughout the litigation process as we work to achieve the best results possible for our clients who were harmed by Volkswagen’s fraudulent conduct.

If you purchased or leased one of the VW or Audi diesel-powered vehicles involved in the Dieselgate scandal, contact the lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson to learn more about whether you qualify to file a lawsuit. For a free legal consultation about your case, please contact us by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001, or by following the link to our free case evaluation form and answering a few simple questions to get started.