Volkswagen Experiences Dej Vu in the European Court of Justice

volkswagen experiences dej vu in the european court of justice

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]

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.

  • FreedMike Back in the '70s, the one thing keeping consumers from buying more Datsuns was styling - these guys were bringing over some of the ugliest product imaginable. Remember the F10? As hard as I try to blot that rolling aberration from my memory, it comes back. So the name change to Nissan made sense, and happened right as they started bringing over good-looking product (like the Maxima that will be featured in this series). They made a pretty clean break.
  • Flowerplough Liability - Autonomous vehicles must be programmed to make life-ending decisions, and who wants to risk that? Hit the moose or dive into the steep grassy ditch? Ram the sudden pile up that is occurring mere feet in front of the bumper or scan the oncoming lane and swing left? Ram the rogue machine that suddenly swung into my lane, head on, or hop up onto the sidewalk and maybe bump a pedestrian? With no driver involved, Ford/Volkswagen or GM or whomever will bear full responsibility and, in America, be ambulance-chaser sued into bankruptcy and extinction in well under a decade. Or maybe the yuge corporations will get special, good-faith, immunity laws, nation-wide? Yeah, that's the ticket.
  • FreedMike It's not that consumers wouldn't want this tech in theory - I think they would. Honestly, the idea of a car that can take over the truly tedious driving stuff that drives me bonkers - like sitting in traffic - appeals to me. But there's no way I'd put my property and my life in the hands of tech that's clearly not ready for prime time, and neither would the majority of other drivers. If they want this tech to sell, they need to get it right.
  • TitaniumZ Of course they are starting to "sour" on the idea. That's what happens when cars start to drive better than people. Humanpilots mostly suck and make bad decisions.
  • Inside Looking Out Why not buy Bronco and call it Defender? Who will notice?