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The Independent Automotive Aftermarket Federation

Class action wins first round in VW 'dieselgate' case

Date: Friday 05 June 2020

Thousands of UK motorists have won the first stage of a High Court action against Volkswagen over the installation of emissions cheating devices in its diesel vehicles.

It follows a preliminary hearing in December, when the court was asked whether software installed in the cars was a "defeat device" under EU rules.

In a judgement on Monday, Mr Justice Waksman ruled that it was.

Volkswagen said it was "disappointed" and said may appeal the decision.

A spokesperson for the German carmaker said: "To be clear, today's decision does not determine liability or any issues of causation or loss for any of the causes of action claimed. These remain to be determined by the court as the case continues."

About 90,000 motorists in England and Wales have brought action against VW as well as Audi, Seat and Skoda, which are also owned by Volkswagen Group.

They are seeking compensation in a case which could be the largest consumer action in English legal history.

The so-called "dieselgate" scandal broke in September 2015.

The use of defeat devices meant that Volkswagen's cars were certified as conforming to EU pollution standards. But, in reality, the vehicles were emitting up to 40 times the legally permitted amount of nitrogen dioxide.

The German carmaker admitted that 11 million vehicles worldwide, including almost 1.2 million in the UK, were affected.

Since then, senior bosses including chief executive Martin Winterkorn have stepped down, while some have been charged with criminal offences in Germany and the US.

The High Court ruling applies not only to VW cars, but also to those manufactured by Audi, Seat and Skoda.

Mr Justice Waksman wrote, "(After considerign the arguments made by Volkswagen) the upshot was that I found that the software function in the vehicles here did indeed amount to a prohibited ‘defeat device’… I also concluded that VW’s attempt to relitigate the issue here was an abuse of the process.”

“A software function which enables a vehicle to pass the test (artificially) because it operates the vehicle in a way which is bound to pass the test and in which it does not operate on the road is a fundamental subversion of the test … it destroys the utility of the test.”

He described some of Volkswagen’s arguments that the vehicles did not contain defeat devices as “completely irrelevant”, “hopeless” and “highly flawed”.