Volkswagen Experiences Dej Vu in the European Court of Justice

Jason R. Sakurai
by Jason R. Sakurai

Volkswagen had another day in court, and it wasn’t a good outcome for the company this time, either. The European Court of Justice ruled that the software VW used to override emissions tests was illegal under European law.

You may recall that in September 2015, US regulators discovered that VW had manipulated diesel emissions, a scandal that has cost Volkswagen more than 30 billion euros from lawsuits by owners claiming a loss of value.

Europe’s highest court ruled in favor of VW diesel purchasers who alleged they were duped, believing their vehicles produced significantly fewer emissions than they did. With all the advertising the company did to hype their cars as the cleanest and greenest cars on the planet, it was a catastrophe of immense proportions.

In a decision said to have wide-ranging implications for ongoing class-action lawsuits against VW, as well as other European automakers such as VW’s sibling, Audi, and Daimler, Mercedes-Benz’s parent company, the Court ruled VW’s emissions-defeating devices could not be justified on the grounds of engine maintenance, or that they contributed to preventing the aging or clogging-up of the engine, as the company had pleaded.

After an initial ruling handed down in April 2020, Volkswagen had petitioned for a limited interpretation of the law, limiting the definition of a defeat device to technologies and strategies operating downstream of the engine, or after the production of exhaust gases. The Court decided upstream technology was also applicable, which included the software VW used to manipulate diesel exhaust emissions under test conditions.

The Court’s ruling said the software must allow the engine to be protected against sudden damage and only immediate risks that give rise to specific hazards while driving justifies its use. Changes in how diesel exhaust emissions are controlled are expected. Thermal windows, where exhaust gas filtering is lowered or shut down to protect engine components at certain temperatures, are being used by European manufacturers.

The ruling also opens the door to what may be a record number of recalls and lawsuits. So much for being the people’s car, as Volkswagen translated into English, means.

[Images: Volkswagen]

Jason R. Sakurai
Jason R. Sakurai

With a father who owned a dealership, I literally grew up in the business. After college, I worked for GM, Nissan and Mazda, writing articles for automotive enthusiast magazines as a side gig. I discovered you could make a living selling ad space at Four Wheeler magazine, before I moved on to selling TV for the National Hot Rod Association. After that, I started Roadhouse, a marketing, advertising and PR firm dedicated to the automotive, outdoor/apparel, and entertainment industries. Through the years, I continued writing, shooting, and editing. It keep things interesting.

More by Jason R. Sakurai

Join the conversation
  • Inside Looking Out Inside Looking Out on Dec 17, 2020

    German cars are the cleanest on the planet and German generated electricity is the greenest on the planet. What other myths you know about Germany?

  • Scalewoodman Scalewoodman on Dec 18, 2020

    Brand legacy, for the consumer, is shorthand for a predicted experience (TRUST and CONSISTENCY). Brand, the Great Intangible, has amazing power. The Volkswagen name, revered for generations, took a serious hit over this whole fiasco from which it may never fully recover. Customers appreciate efficiency and shareholders want value and profits, but real people have no patience for cheaters- something deep in our psyche loves revenge (some call it Karma) especially when our cultural differences sometimes interpret German dour judgements as absolute arrogance. We see the harm to Nissan after the Ghosn fiasco... Toyota after the (real or imagined) unintended acceleration crisis... best example Audi in the '90s. Humility in all things. And if your management hierarchy creates a culture of fear and intimidation, DON'T GET CAUGHT cheating.

  • Wjtinfwb Funny. When EV's were bursting onto the scene; Tesla's, Volt's, Leaf's pure EV was all the rage and Hybrids were derided because they still used a gas engine to make them, ahem; usable. Even Volt's were later derided when it was revealed that the Volt's gas engine was actually connected to the wheels, not just a generator. Now, Hybrids are warmly welcomed into the Electric fraternity by virtue of being "electrified". If a change in definition is what it takes, I'm all for it. Hybrid's make so much sense in most American's usage patterns and if needed you can drive one cross-country essentially non-stop. Glad to see Hybrid's getting the love.
  • 3-On-The-Tree We also had a 1973 IH Scout that we rebuilt the engine in and it had dual glass packs, real loud. I miss those days.
  • 3-On-The-Tree Jeff thanks. Back in 1990 we had a 1964 Dodge D100 with a slant six with a 3 on the tree. I taught myself how to drive a standard in that truck. It was my one of many journeys into Mopar land. Had a 1973 Plymouth duster with a slant six and a 1974 Dodge Dart Custom with 318 V8. Great cars and easy to work on.
  • Akear What is GM good at?You led Mary............................................What a disgrace!
  • Randy in rocklin I have a 87 bot new with 200k miles and 3 head gasket jobs and bot another 87 turbo 5 speed with 70k miles and new head gaskets. They cost around 4k to do these days.