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A Colorado couple on a cross-country drive to return their 2011 diesel Volkswagen Jetta to the automaker's U.S. headquarters in Virginia stopped in Chicago on Friday to raise awareness about the emissions scandal.
Marcus Moench and Elisabeth Caspari of Boulder told a handful of media members who showed up outside a Near North Side dealership for a news conference that they are seeking to return their 2010 diesel Jetta to Herndon, Va.
A sign was taped to their car window with a website and various social media names: whatnextvw.org, @whatnextvw, and #makevwpay.
The couple also said they'd drop off petitions with 20,000 signatures, gathered by the Public Interest Research Group, calling on Volkswagen to fully compensate consumers for the emission scandal affecting about half a million cars that had been marketed as environmentally friendly in the United States.
Earlier this month, the U.S. government alleged in a lawsuit that Volkswagen illegally installed software designed to make its diesel engines pass U.S. emissions tests. The vehicles then switched off those measures to boost performance, generating greenhouse gas emissions up to 40 times greater than U.S. environmental standards.
Volkswagen admitted in September that the cheating software was included in diesel cars and SUVs sold since the 2009 model year.
"It negates the reason we bought the vehicle," Moench said.
Moench and Caspari said they bought the Jetta for its excellent mileage and environmental benefits. They said the company should, among other things, replace their existing vehicle with one that meets the emissions, performance and mileage standards originally advertised. Moench also said Volkswagen should take steps to curb pollution of, say, school buses as a way to make restitution for the emissions that it was allowing.
Moench said he and his wife bought another car, an electric vehicle, in the interim so they'd be relying less on a polluting car.
The couple stopped at Fletcher Jones Volkswagen at 1111 N. Clark St. The dealership referred media queries to Volkswagen, which couldn't be reached for immediate comment.
Last fall, the couple returned their car to a dealership in Colorado, but it would keep it on their lot for only about a month, citing liability concerns.
The couple's cross-country drive is coordinated with Illinois PIRG.
After starting in Denver, the couple also stopped in Austin. They'll also visit Detroit and New York before Virginia.
Moench and Caspari were joined by Evanston resident David Mann, who also owns a 2010 diesel Volkswagen and is a PIRG member. Mann said it took him a week to build up the courage to tell his wife about the Volkswagen scandal.
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