Damages From VW? German Diesel Drivers Face Uphill Battle in Court

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
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damages from vw german diesel drivers face uphill battle in court

While Volkswagen Group’s diesel lawsuits are more or less settled in the United States, 470,000 diesel owners in Germany are still fighting to see their payday. Unfortunately, the courts aren’t certain they’re deserving.

The court hasn’t settled on anything, but Monday’s introductory hearing concluded with presiding Judge Michael Neef wondering what customers actually lost by having their vehicles equipped with emissions-cheating software. 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. It’s concerned that drivers’ ability to continue using the automobiles doesn’t warrant awarding owners damages.

“It doesn’t make sense to us that drivers should be granted the right to use cars for free,” Neef said on behalf of the three judges hearing the case, according to Bloomberg. “Otherwise, we would have to grant punitive damages that do not exist under German law.”

From Bloomberg:

Monday’s comments are preliminary and may still change, Neef said. The court will review the issues and discuss them further at a Nov. 18 hearing in Braunschweig, a venue close to VW’s Wolfsburg headquarters.

The judges are pondering whether to join other German tribunals that have granted the lawsuits because owners faced the risk that their cars could be banned from roads by transport authorities and suffered losses in resale values. Any ruling in the mass case is likely to influence similar suits and claims worldwide.

Nearly all U.S. owners with affected VW diesels took part in 2016’s $25 billion settlement. The fine was supposed to address damages of customers, regulators, individual states and dealers; buyback offers and additional compensation were extended to roughly 500,000 owners in the United States. While lawsuits have also cropped in Europe, Volkswagen has said it wants to deal with each issue separately.

In Germany, roughly 2.4 million Volkswagen models were made suspect by the emissions fiasco. However, the vast majority have since received software updates. And, while some of these fixes have fallen under criticism for delivering vehicles with lessened performance, others came back thirstier for fuel with a little more get-up-and-go. Regardless, 99 percent of the affected vehicles underwent the necessary repairs and can be legally driven within the country — which may be enough.

Volkswagen claims this is the reason it’s not going to bother settling in Germany and believes regional laws are on its side. “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 automaker explained.

[Image: U.J. Alexander/Shutterstock]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

Consumer advocate tracking industry trends, regulation, and the bitter-sweet nature of modern automotive tech. Research focused and gut driven.

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  • SCE to AUX SCE to AUX on Sep 30, 2019

    This should be a simple matter of assessing known market depreciation of these vehicles before and after the scandal broke. Personally, I think these vehicles are radioactive and the only market remaining for them is comprised of True Believers. If this is so, their market value may not have dropped.

    • See 4 previous
    • Lorenzo Lorenzo on Oct 02, 2019

      That's only in the US. VW has it right: the cars are now street legal in the EU so there's no loss. In the US, the fixes weren't deemed good enough by EPA and several states like Cali, and owners turned them in rather than deal with future registration problems.

  • Art Vandelay Art Vandelay on Sep 30, 2019

    And I agree with SCE to AUX here. If they have fixed the issue with the cars then I think damages should be tied to any increased depreciation as a result of the repair and/or the scandal. The "Punitive" damages should go to things like charging infrastructure and things that would benefit everyone since we are all really the victims here having to breathe this. Owners should be made whole, but the US settlements where people got to basically drive the car for free (after enjoying the benefits of the cheat software) and get a fat check was in my opinion idiotic. Yes, they should have been punished, but the owners treating the cars like a winning lottery ticket was stupid. Honestly though, with respect to decreased value, lots of cars get hit with extra depreciation because of a myriad of issues so perhaps the VW owners will just have to eat it like Ford Powershift/GM Ignition/Porsche IMS/VAG sludge/Leaf battery degregation/Mazda rustbuckets/Nissan CVT and everyone else who had some car that had something crummy about it that tanked the resale.

    • See 1 previous
    • Lokki Lokki on Oct 01, 2019

      @Inside Looking Out “European are much more humble in their aspirations.” Uh, we’re talking about Germany here....

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