Pre-trial hearing for UK-based class action lawsuit against VW sees Slater and Gordon lawyers claim diesel emissions fix was another 'defeat device' in itself
Julian Rendell
16 October 2019

Lawyers for the 85,000 motorists bringing a class action in the UK against VW for its role in Dieselgate have questioned whether the technical fix introduced in 2016 can be classified as a second defeat device, in a pre-trial hearing last week.

Dieselgate damages: civil case against Volkswagen starts in spring

Slater and Gordon, who are leading a consortium of lawyers against VW, represented by Freshfields, raised the point as the Dieselgate trial heads towards an important two-week hearing at the High Court in December, four years after the class action was first raised. 

That trial will be critical to deciding in UK law whether VW fitted a defeat device to the EA189 diesel engine, which powers 1.2m affected VW, Audi, Seat and Skoda models – the first stage of a legal process that could ultimately finish with VW paying out tens of millions of pounds in compensation to owners in 2022.

“We have asked VW lots of questions to clarify exactly what the technical fix is doing,” says Gareth Pope, head of group litigation at Slater and Gordon. For its part, VW’s lawyers say the technical fix was completed to standards set by Germany’s automotive technical agency, the KBA, equivalent to the UK’s VCA, and re-engineered the EA189 diesel to the emissions standards it should have had under EU5 regulations.

Slater and Gordon is questioning why the technical fix is operating over an ambient temperature range or ‘thermal window’ of 15 deg C to 33 deg C, and below 1000m altitude, suggesting that re-engineered EA189 engines will emit higher levels of pollutants in real-world use outside these conditions.

“This information has long been in the public domain and has received media coverage since at least April 2016,” VW told Autocar in a statement. Autocar also understands that VW rejects any suggestion that a ‘thermal window’ can be classified as a defeat device.

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And given that the EA189 has been re-engineered to the EU5 standard that allows a ‘thermal window’, it seems unlikely that the fix is a second defeat device.

However, this detail is significant because it forms part of Slater and Gordon’s case, which must cross three hurdles of proof to be successful, the first being to prove in UK law ‘deceit’ - that VW deceived buyers by selling cars with defeat devices.

VW recently settled a class action out of court in Australia affecting around 100,000 cars with damages valued at between Aus$89m (£46.6m) and Aus$130m (£68.2m), equivalent to about $Aus1000 (£524) per owner. Although the Australian court case has no legal bearing in the UK, it suggests VW will find it difficult to win the defeat device legal action in December, but also that damages ultimately will be limited.

Read more

Dieselgate damages: civil case against Volkswagen starts in spring​

VW faces Germany's largest-ever legal claim for Dieselgate​

May 2019: Volkswagen’s diesel emissions scandal bill runs to €30bn

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Comments
4

16 October 2019
85000 people are basically taking the p155! They owned cars that allowed them to pay slightly less tax than they would have paid if VW would have given accurate emissions data and are trying to argue that their cars are depreciating faster due to the scandal. NONSENSE! I own a diesel, admittedly not from VAG, could I please sue the EU/UK government for their current attitude towards diesel negatively impacting my resale value!! Talk about looking a gift horse in the mouth!

16 October 2019

Its the UK government that should be taking out a lawsuit, on behalf of taxpayers, rather than VW owners, who benefited from VW's cheating.

16 October 2019
leaving aside those out seeking a fast buck, which there always is sadly, the simple fact is that VW deceived it's customers, and not just over taxation - the cars simply were much dirtier than they were portrayed to be. It was dishonest, plain and simple.

Worse, the so called fix has caused some cars to be worse off - one friend has seen his economy drop from 50mpg to 36 since it was modified.

So for VW to shut the door on this as if it were nothing is the height of arrogance.

17 October 2019
Nothing seems beyond Volkswagen.

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