By Keith Laing - 01/20/16 12:37 PM EST
New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas (D) is suing Volkswagen over its efforts to circumvent federal and state air quality standards.
The lawsuit, filed in the First Judicial District Court of Santa Fe, accuses of Volkswagen of “willful and deliberate violations of New Mexico environmental and consumer protection statutes.”
Balderas said he filed the lawsuit on behalf of New Mexico drivers who were deceived in a "seven-year charade in which Volkswagen-made vehicles were touted as being 'clean diesels' and as eco-friendly tools in the fight against pollution from motor vehicle emissions."
"Our Fraud Recovery Strike Force will work with outside counsel to ensure maximum financial return for New Mexico taxpayers and consumers for the unacceptable behavior by one of the world’s largest automakers," Banderas continued. "Volkswagen has preyed upon hard working New Mexicans who want to protect the environment or save money with fuel efficiency.”
Volkswagen has admitted to selling diesel models of its cars that had software installed that violated the Clean Air Act by activating required air pollution protections only during emissions tests.
The Environmental Protection Agency has accused the German automaker of installing the "defeat devices" on about 482,000 diesel vehicles since 2008. The company also installed the devices on cars marketed under its Audi and Porsche brands.
Volkswagen programmed vehicles to report much lower nitrogen oxide emissions than they actually produced. In regular driving, the vehicles emitted up to 40 times more pollution.
The company has offered an apology to drivers for the emissions flap, but attorneys who are working with Balderas's office on the New Mexico lawsuit said the company should do more.
“It is obvious that these Volkswagen-made vehicles were a Trojan horse into the American car market. The company cast its lot with diesel, then, by its own admission, could not come up with technology to meet U.S. emissions standards, so it decided to cheat," Grant & Eisenhofer Consumer Protection and Products Liability Litigation Group Director Adam Levitt said in a statement.
"We will ask the court to fairly assess the damage this caused to the New Mexico environment and to the public health, and to quantify the effect of Volkswagen’s brazen deceptions and rampant misconduct," he continued.
"The companies’ actions embody the very definitions of consumer fraud, false advertising, and public nuisance under New Mexico statutory and common law, and we will seek compensatory, statutory, and punitive damages for the State of New Mexico.”