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Santa Fe law firm sues Volkswagen, 2 ABQ dealerships

SANTA FE – A Santa Fe law firm has filed a class-action lawsuit against Volkswagen of America and two Albuquerque auto dealerships over revelations that Volkswagen rigged its 2.0L TDI diesel engine to pass Environmental Protection Agency emission tests even though the engines are alleged to emit 40 times the amount of nitrogen oxides allowed.

While dozens of other lawsuits have been filed elsewhere since the deceptive use of “defeat devices” in the VW engines came to light earlier this month, Santa Fe attorney John Day says the suit filed Monday by his firm, Egolf + Ferlic + Day LLC, is the first in New Mexico. Volkswagen has admitted that 11 million of its cars and vans were equipped with software that could be used to cheat on emissions tests.

The lawsuit alleges fraud, violations of the New Mexico Unfair Practices Act, breach of contract and breach of implied warranty and was filed in state District Court on Monday. The plaintiffs include two women, one each from Bernalillo and San Miguel counties; a man from Doña Ana County; and a couple from Santa Fe County. Day said it’s possible others could be added.

“The list of potential class members continues to grow,” Day said. “We’re getting a lot of calls from a lot of New Mexicans who bought these cheater Volkswagens and are affected by the injustices that have been done to them.”

Defendants include various corporate layers of the Germany-based car company, as well as Albuquerque’s University Volkswagen and Audi Albuquerque, where the plaintiffs’ vehicles were purchased.

The lawsuit maintains that the plaintiffs, and others who purchased vehicles with the VW diesel engine, were fooled by false Volkswagen advertisements, repeated by dealerships, that claimed the engines “were superior, cleaner, more fuel efficient, less polluting and better for the environment.”

As a result, they’ve suffered emotional distress and worry, and economic loss as the residual value of their vehicle has significantly diminished. The suit seeks damages pursuant to the Unfair Practices Act, actual and punitive damages, attorneys fees and court costs.

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Bob Cockerham, general manager of University Volkswagen, said on Monday he had not seen the lawsuit but his dealership was “working with customers” until a resolution is reached. “We’re hoping Volkswagen will have a solution that will work,” he said. “We didn’t create this; we’re in this with the customer.”

He referred a reporter to the Volkswagen of America website, which shows a short video message from Michael Horn, president and CEO of Volkswagen Group of America. Horn apologizes for the company’s violation of the EPA carbon emissions standards.

“It’s clear that our company betrayed the trust of you, our customers, our employees, our dealers and the public,” he said, adding that the company was “devoted to setting things right.” He said the company was working with federal agencies to develop a remedy and that customers will be notified of the next steps.

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