Volkswagen diesel: is it a lemon?

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Volkswagen is back in the news this week thanks to a court case claiming their diesel cars and lemons and a separate story claiming they deleted emissions test documents and obstructed justice. One man’s fight against the car company is bound to head to appeals court after appeals court, but the juiciest bits out this week find a former Volkswagen employee claiming he was fired after refusing to participate in the deletions and reporting them to a supervisor.

An NBC Miami story says Volkswagen has admitted that it programmed about 600,000 diesel-powered cars in the U.S. to turn on pollution controls during EPA treadmill tests and turn them off when the cars were on the road. The agency alleges that the cars emit as much as 40 times the allowable amount of nitrogen oxide, which can cause respiratory problems.

The Justice Department is investigating potential criminal charges against Volkswagen, and the company has been negotiating with the EPA and California regulators to come up with repairs. VW faces a March 24 deadline from a federal judge to reach agreement on the fixes.

VW already faces the potential for over $20 billion in fines from the government for the pollution violations, as well as hundreds of class-action lawsuits from angry vehicle owners. Before the scandal, diesels accounted for about 25 percent of the company’s U.S. sales.

The ongoing scandal already has cost Volkswagen’s CEO his job, and last week, VW ousted its top U.S. executive.

The fired employee, Daniel Donovan, who worked in VW’s Michigan offices, alleges that the company’s information technology department did not stop deleting items until Sept. 21, so Donovan reported his concerns to his supervisor, according to the March 8 lawsuit filed with the Oakland County Circuit Court in Pontiac, Michigan. It also says the department was not preserving backup disks.

Donovan was fired because VW of America believed he was about to report the deletions and obstruction of justice to the EPA, Justice Department or the FBI, according to the complaint. It was unclear whether Donovan, of suburban Detroit, spoke with federal investigators. His attorney, Sam Morgan, would not comment and said his client didn’t want to speak about it either. A message was left for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit.

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