Dieselgate isn’t over yet (bis)
A British High Court judge has cleared the way for yet another wave of jurisdictional claims against Volkswagen and possibly other manufacturers. The Dutch Diesel Emission Justice Foundation is determined to claim compensation for the 8,5 million Europeans who bought a frauded car from the VW Group.
Dieselgate started in September 2015 in the States, but quickly became a worldwide scandal unknown in the car industry. The VW Group has used emissions-cheating software in some 11 million of its diesel cars (mostly with the EA 189 TDI engine) between 2009 and 2016.
The aim was to lower emissions during the official testing procedure. The software recognized this procedure and adapted the engine calibration. In real driving conditions, these cars emitted far more toxic gases (especially NOx) than claimed.
In the UK, some 90 000 owners of a VW product started a class action against the manufacturer because they have bought a car with fraud software. They claim that their car will be of lesser worth second-hand, and that it costs more in consumption and maintenance. They also point to the negative consequences of health and the environment.
At the beginning of the week, a High Court judge stated that Volkswagen has knowingly built in this fraudulent software. The judge was uncommonly harsh for the defendant. He called the arguments that VW used for its defense “totally irrelevant”, “hopeless”, and “extremely flawed”.
“Of course, that’s very good news for us,” says Femke Hendriks, director of the Dutch Diesel Emission Justice Foundation (DEJF) that wants to claim justice for all duped VW owners all over Europe. “This is a serious blow again for VW’s defense; they’re fighting a rearguard action.”
DEJF recently has brought VW before the Dutch court. Apart from VW, also the Dutch VW importer Pon and the supplier Bosch have been taken to court and even all the dealers in the country. The case is to be judged on the 10th of June this year.
DEJF represents 170 000 Dutch VW-owners, but it wants to make claims for all other owners of a car of the Volkswagen group all over Europe. “We’re basing ourselves on a new law,” says Hendriks, “that makes it possible for non-Dutch people to participate. That way, we represent 8,5 million Europeans.”
Compensation or replacement
Hendriks believes the court can go for different solutions responding to the claims. It’s possible that the cars have to be returned to VW and that the manufacturer has to deliver replacements. It’s also possible that the cars are withdrawn from the road and that compensations have to be paid.
Hendriks also points at the fact that there is a presumption that VW also has frauded with another engine, the EA 897. “In Germany, some are already talking about dieselgate 2.0.”
The fight continues
“In a press release, VW says to be very disappointed by the verdict of the High Court, but that it will continue to defend itself on the same lines. “VW continues to believe not being responsible and that the claimers didn’t suffer any damage.”
Meanwhile, the VW Group has already paid more than 30 billion euros for claims and fines worldwide. Millions of cars had to be recalled to have a software adaptation. On Wednesday, VW also declared that it doesn’t know if the 3,3 billion euros dividends promised will be paid out. Because of the corona crisis, VW loses 2 billion euros every week.
While VW is considered to be the biggest fraud, many other manufacturers and suppliers are also under fire. The most important, until now, are FCA, Daimler, Renault, PSA, and GM. German industry giant Bosch, the supplier of the software, already concluded a deal with the German justice paying a 90 million fine. In the US, it already paid 303 million euros.