Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear filed a lawsuit Tuesday against Volkswagen and its connected brands — Audi and Porsche — for allegedly deceiving the owners of nearly 3,800 vehicles registered in the state.
The 51-page lawsuit, filed in Franklin Circuit Court, claims that Volkswagen and its brands willfully violated state consumer protection laws when it fraudulently promoted its turbocharged direct-injection diesel-engine automobiles as having “clean diesel” technology.
Beshear said the penalties could be in the millions of dollars. Four other states have filed similar lawsuits, which are pending.
Jeannine Gilvan, a spokeswoman for Volkswagen Group of America in Herndon, Va., said the company does not comment on lawsuits. She said Volkswagen is working with the federal Environmental Protection Agency to provide restitution to affected customers.
Beshear said Volkswagen has admitted that its claim was dishonest because its vehicles contained rigged software that cheated emission tests.
“Volkswagen must be held accountable for its false and misleading promotion and sales of its vehicles in the commonwealth,” Beshear said.
In the lawsuit, Beshear seeks civil penalties for violation of the state Consumer Protection Act and an injunction barring similar future practices by the company.
He said it was too early to say what kind of restitution would be available for the affected auto owners.
The lawsuit alleges that Volkswagen developed, installed and concealed defeat devices inside certain diesel engine models that detected the presence of emissions-testing equipment to mask the true emission levels during testing.
Last September, Volkswagen admitted irregularities in its diesel engines with the emissions software. It said it was “deeply sorry that we have broken the trust of our customers and the public” and that it would “make things right with the government, the public.”
The company sold or leased 580,000 of the vehicles in the United States and 11 million worldwide.
Beshear said the alleged deceptive practice had gone on since at least 2005.