VW scrubs diesel references from social media, YouTube

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Volkswagen appears to have scrubbed many references to clean diesel from its webpage and social media accounts amid a growing scandal over its attempts to trick regulators’ air pollution tests.

The company has admitted to accusations that software installed in millions of its vehicles was meant to deceive emissions regulators, and its chief executive, Martin Winterkorn, resigned earlier Wednesday.

While the Justice Department has reportedly launched a criminal investigation, at least one Democratic lawmaker is called for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) take action against its allegedly deceptive advertising — which appears to have been scrubbed from the web.

Many of the company’s clean diesel ads have been removed from the company’s YouTube page. The site Jalopnik spotted the move last week, but pointed out it is unclear when the ads were removed.

Those ads include a campaign titled “Old Wives Tales.” The ads, which featured three older women talking about the misperceptions of diesel cars, received media attention in the advertising press back in March.

The online ads on YouTube now feature a blank screen, with a short message, noting “this video has been removed by the user.”

On the company’s Twitter account, there is only one current reference to the term “diesel” in the past year. But a search of the archive on Topsy turns up about a half dozen tweets with a reference to diesel that have since been deleted.

For example, a tweet five months ago asks: “Diesel cars are really smoky and sluggish? That’s the past. The 2015 Golf TDI is, however, a lot of fun.” Another deleted tweet from six months ago notes, “Some questions are hard to ask, unless you’re asking about top-notch clean diesel. That’s easy.”

No tweet with a reference to diesel has been sent in the past four months.

But the company appears to have failed to delete some tweets directly to individuals, which can usually only be seen by a small amount of people who follow both the company and the target of the tweet.


Similarly, a web page on the company’s site advertising “clean diesel” now turns up a “404” error that says: “Page not found.”

A cached version of that page, however, advertises the family of five “TDI clean diesel” cars. Lower down in the page, the company boasts, “This ain’t your daddy’s diesel.”

“Stinky, smoky, and sluggish. Those old diesel realities no longer apply. Enter TDI Clean Diesel. Ultra-low-sulfur fuel, direct injection technology, and extreme efficiency. We’ve ushered in a new era of diesel,” the site reads.

The company did not respond to a request for comment about the online deletions.

The company is accused of using software in many vehicles that could automatically switch over during emissions testing. It was meant to trick testers into believing that its diesel cars released a much lower volume of nitrogen oxide than they actually do.

Sen. Bill NelsonBill NelsonFederal agency under fire for selling recalled cars Senators offer renewed hope of ending hotel booking scams Yahoo hack spurs push for legislation MORE (D-Fla.) recently pressed the FTC to investigate the company’s allegedly deceptive ads.

Nelson sent over a letter with the company’s advertising material, and broached the idea of forcing the huge car company to launch a corrective marketing campaign. The commission has authority to police “unfair or deceptive acts or practices.”

“I am outraged that VW would cheat its customers by deceiving them into buying a car that wasn’t what was advertised. As such, I ask that the commission explore possible remedies under the FTC Act to remedy consumers who relied upon Volkswagen’s deceptive claims,” he said in the letter.