German Diesel Drivers Fight VW For Damages In Court

Volkswagen rejected a German judge’s plea to settle a mass lawsuit in Germany over its rigging of diesel emissions tests. The lawsuit, involving about 450,000 owners of diesel Volkswagen cars, is being heard by the judge of the Braunschweig Higher Regional Court, which is near the carmaker’s headquarters. The court booked the local town hall to allow for large numbers of observers.

VW admitted using illegal software to cheat U.S. diesel engine tests in 2015. When the scandal broke 2.4 million cars with defeat devices were on German roads. The court claims its primary goal is to assess whether or not any loss in value can be attributed to vehicle bans that came years after VW’s diesel scandal broke.

While 99 percent of the affected vehicles underwent the necessary repairs and can be legally driven within Germany, some of these fixes have fallen under criticism for delivering vehicles with lessened performance. VW has argued that the drivers’ ability to continue using the automobiles doesn’t warrant awarding owners damages. The German carmaker said, “The vehicles are driven by hundreds of thousands of customers every day, which is why we believe there is no damage and therefore no cause for complaint.”

The company agreed to a $25 billion settlement in the U.S. in 2016 addressed claims from all U.S. owners of affected cars, environmental regulators, U.S. states and dealers. The deal included buyback offers and additional compensation for about 500,000 owners. In Australia, the company will pay 127 million Australian dollars to compensate owners, paying them A$1,400 apiece. Consumers have also brought lawsuits in Switzerland and Belgium.

VW has rejected criticism that the compensation for U.S. car owners was not extended to other jurisdictions and said that there was no legal basis for consumers in Germany to seek compensation due to differences in law. This trial will settle points of law, with the claimants able to file follow-up claims for compensation later if they are successful. The legal process is likely to take years.