Tens of thousands of UK motorists who bought VW, Audi, Seat and Skoda diesel cars are taking legal action in the aftermath of the “dieselgate” scandal.
It’s thought it could mark the largest consumer action in English legal history.
VW installed software which was designed to detect when vehicles were being tested and switch engines to a “cleaner mode” in an attempt to cheat clean air laws, meaning the vehicles were emitting up to 40 times the legal limit of nitrogen dioxide.
Volkswagen has said it will “defend robustly its position”.
The English litigation was filed back in 2016, but has now reached what the claimants’ lawyers have called “a decisive court battle”.
“A decisive court battle”
Gareth Pope, head of group litigation at Slater and Gordon, which represents more than 70,000 of almost 90,000 claimants, said before the start of the hearing: “This trial will establish once and for all whether VW installed prohibited ‘defeat devices’ in affected vehicles and is a significant milestone in our clients’ attempts to hold VW accountable in the UK.
“This is a decisive point for VW.
“For years, the carmaker has deceived its customers, marketing cars as complying with emissions standards while all the time knowing they were emitting many times more than the allowed level of toxic pollutants, perpetrating an environmental and health scandal.
“VW has had plenty of opportunity to come clean, make amends and move on from this highly damaging episode.
“But instead it’s chosen to spend millions of pounds denying the claims our clients have been forced to bring against it rather than paying that to their own customers in compensation.”
Reduced readings of emissions
In 2015, VW admitted 11 million cars worldwide – including 1.2 million in the UK – had software that reduced readings of emissions in tests.
The UK hearing, expected to last two weeks, centres on whether that software constitutes a “defeat device” under EU regulations.
In a statement before the hearing, a VW spokeswoman said: “Volkswagen Group continues to defend robustly its position 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.”
Volkswagen has faced a flurry of legal action worldwide, and has been forced to pay out more than €30bn (£26bn) in fines, recall costs and civil settlements.
The carmaker’s current and former senior employees are facing criminal charges in Germany.
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