VW emissions cheating ‘obvious’ UK court hears

03 December 2019

3 December 2019

The Dieselgate scandal saw Volkswagen Group (VW) engage in an ‘obvious cheat’ when it allegedly fitted emissions-cheating devices to vehicles, the UK High Court has been told.

As one of the country’s biggest consumer lawsuits got underway, with lawyers representing over 90,000 drivers affected by recalls to remove so-called ‘defeat devices’ from their cars, judges heard that the carmaker made cars that failed to comply with EU legislation and artificially lowered emissions of nitrogen oxide during testing.

Volkswagen denies any wrongdoing and is defending the case.

Costing lives

Thomas De La Mare QC, representing the car owners, told the High Court in London that installing the device ‘cheated the test and deprives it of its purpose, how badly or well the vehicle pollutes in the real world’. ‘It is difficult to think of a more obvious cheat than the one VW used,’ he added.

La Mare also said that the ‘whole purpose of pollution limits was to save lives’ mentioning that recent research showed that nitrogen oxide (NOx), emitted by diesel vehicles, kills 1,000 people a day in Europe, reports the Financial Times.

The preliminary trial will rule on whether the High Court can be bound by an earlier ruling on the emissions scandal by the German Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA), which found vehicles contained a prohibited defeat device, and also to determine whether it can class the software as such.

Michael Fordham QC, the barrister for VW, said in written arguments submitted to the hearing that the German regulator’s findings did not bind the High Court.

‘Volkswagen Group continued to defend its position robustly in the High Court in London. It remains Volkswagen Group’s case that the claimants did not suffer any loss at all and that the affected vehicles did not contain a prohibited defeat device,’ the carmaker said in a statement.

More to come

Should the motorists win this case, it is likely that further litigation will follow to determine whether VW is liable to the claimants for damages, and if so, how much it will have to pay out. It is unlikely, however, that the carmaker will allow a full trial, in which further details of its emissions cheating may come to light.

The German carmaker has already paid $30 billion (€27 billion) in fines in the US, where it was found guilty of cheating emissions testing, using a device installed in the vehicle to detect when testing was taking place, and altering engine maps to produce less pollution from the tailpipe than it normally would. However, the carmaker has constantly denied that the illegal procedure was carried out in European testing.

Yet drivers across the continent are not happy, claiming that after the recall to remove the ‘defeat device’, their cars have been worse to drive, with increased fuel consumption amongst other issues. VW is facing mass-consumer lawsuits in Italy and Germany, the latter currently delayed by paperwork issues.