Let me preface this My Two Cents by saying that defrauding the government is never an acceptable practice and that any fines levied against Volkswagen are absolutely justified and warranted.
That being said, I still have to give the engineers at VW a sly "low five" for coming up with a way to "meet" arbitrary US emissions standards while not actually hampering the performance of their vehicles. The designers realized that emissions are not tested while driving around--but rather when a vehicle is put on a dyno machine--where the front wheels spin, but the back wheels do not. A simple software command told the engine and transmission that if the rear wheels aren't turning, enact the internal process to reduce diesel soot--since that is likely when the vehicle is being tested. Nobody would notice sluggish performance or worse gas mileage while a stationary test is being conducted. The rest of the time, regular emission levels would be released--and the vehicle would perform as normal.
The reason I give VW the wink and the nod is because it's practice has put so-called "green" drivers in a very awkward position. There was likely a good percentage of "clean diesel" Volkswagen buyers who purchased those vehicles because it made them "feel like they were doing something good for the planet". They drove around scoffing at the guys in the big SUV's while also laughing under their breaths at the smart cars struggling to reach highway speeds. As it turns out, they were actually causing MORE pollution by driving their cars than those of us in our "gas guzzlers" were in our vehicles. And boy is it tearing at them big time.
ABC World News last night featured one guy who is now suing Volkswagen--and is parking his otherwise perfectly-good car because he is no longer "saving the planet" and is wracked by guilt. If I was VW, I would challenge the suit by pointing out that the buyers actually got a better vehicle than what was advertised--with improved horsepower and fuel economy--which I'm sure they did not complain about once before this scandal broke. It would be like buying a bottle labeled as Budweiser and finding out they put Paulaner Hefeweissen in there instead.
I would also suggest that those looking to sue VW talk to the families of the hundreds that were killed by the GM ignition failure crashes, and the Toyota sudden acceleration crashes or those who were maimed by the Takata air bags to find out what real "personal injury" is about.