Aug. 24 (UPI) -- Farmers in central Mexico have accused Volkswagen of provoking a drought, because they say the automaker uses "hail cannons" to keep storm clouds away from its car lots.
The accusation is included in a lawsuit filed this week against the German automaker.
The sonic devices claim to disrupt the formation of hail in the atmosphere, but farmers say the controversial technique is also dispersing rain -- aggravating drought conditions.
Some farmers have staged protests at Volkswagen's Puebla plant, one of its largest that employs 15,000 workers and produces more than 450,000 vehicles a year.
The farmers, who say May is normally the start of rainy season, blame the hail cannons for a drought that led to the loss of about 5,000 acres of crops. They are seeking almost $4 million in compensation.
Farmer Gerardo Perez said when the sonic booms are launched, "the sky literally clears and it simply doesn't rain."
Volkswagen said it would take the cannons off automatic mode and fire them only when potential hail storms approached.
Volkswagen has been under scrutiny for other matters recently, including an emissions cheating scandal that cost the automaker billions and sent some executives to jail.
In May, the Department of Justice indicted former Volkswagen AG CEO Martin Winterkorn on conspiracy and and wire fraud charges.
The four-count indictment accuses Winterkorn of conspiring with other senior executives to defraud the United States, U.S. customers and violate the Clean Air Act by lying about emissions on diesel-fuel vehicles. Winterkorn is also accused of wire fraud.