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Appeal Refusal is the Next Step in VW ‘Dieselgate’ Class Action Litigation

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A recent decision by the Court of Appeal now means that car making giants Volkswagen will not be able to appeal the decision that it did circumvent EU clean air regulations. The decision is a key preliminary issue in the current class action the German manufacturer is facing.


Volkswagen, the world’s largest car manufacturer measured in number of vehicles sold, is facing class action litigation from over 90,000 UK customers who are claiming that the Wolfsburg based manufacturer had deceived them as to their vehicles’ conformity with EU emissions regulations and true value. The claimants argue that their vehicles were fitted with devices (sometimes referred to a ‘defeat devices’) that knew when the vehicle was being tested and adjusted the engine performance and subsequent emissions in line with the regulations, whilst when tested under normal driving conditions, the harmful nitrogen oxide (‘NoXx’) emissions were often above the permitted levels. So far Volkswagen have refused to compensate owners in England and wales, despite having paid out billions of dollars in fines and compensation in other countries.

Contradictory Evidence

Volkswagen had argued that it did not install a ‘defeat device’ that was specifically prohibited by European law, but Appeal Court judge Waksman J found that it was, describing various VW’s arguments as “completely irrelevant’, “hopeless”, “highly flawed” and absurd. Wakeman also stated that VW’s own internal documents contradicted its defence in court:

A software function which enables a vehicle to pass the test because (artificially) 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 and the objective behind it..in other words, it destroys the utility of the test because it makes it impossible for performance under it to be the approximation of normal driving conditions and performance which it is intended to be.”

A spokesperson for Leigh Day, who along with Slater & Gordon are the joint lead solicitors in the group action said:

The legal action against Volkswagen can now proceed and it also blackens the clouds over the headquarters of many other vehicle manufacturers who may have felt that cheating the system was good for business…we believe that drivers in this country are owed many millions, if not billions, of pounds after they were mis-sold cars which had far greater emissions than they were led to believe, causing much more harm to the environment and increasing fuel consumption…“Volkswagen should now accept the court’s decision and we urge them to now do the right thing and put their customers first by entering into settlement negotiations so that our clients are not forced to drag them further through the courts.”

Commenting on the decision, a VW spokeswoman said:

Volkswagen Group is disappointed in the Court of Appeal’s decision but, of course, respects it… Volkswagen maintains that because customers have not suffered any loss, it does not owe them compensation. Nevertheless, this is a matter for the main trial in due course…Volkswagen has openly acknowledged that, in relation to the emissions issue, we did not live up to our own standards. We are committed to maintaining the trust of the public through programmes such as our €33bn investment into e-mobility, bringing 75 fully electric car models to market by 2029.”

 

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