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DieselGate continues to haunt Volkswagen as massive class-action suit is filed

Owners still have a long way to go before they see compensation

A case has been brought by the Federation of German Consumer Organizations against Volkswagen in which 470,000 owners of the 2.0-liter TDI EA189 engine are seeking compensation due to the company’s diesel emissions scandal. The scandal was uncovered in 2015 via a tip from European researchers to the Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board.

The scandal centered around Volkswagen’s emission computer. which was programmed with different parameters depending on whether the vehicle was driving normally or under an emissions test cycle. In an emissions cycle, the emission system would react normally allowing Volkswagen to claim it had “Clean Diesel” engines to combat electric and hybrid competitors. In normal driving conditions, the emissions system would shut down, allowing for better power and mileage, while also creating emissions up to 40 times the legal limit.

This suit is aimed at Volkswagen as a parent company — the scandal also included Audi, Seat, and Skoda brands. Volkswagen controlled 70 percent of the United States diesel passenger-car market at the time; current market share statistics are not available at this time, but its clear that the company’s share has plunged.

The Braunschweig state court declared the suit admissible as proceedings opened. It also suggested that plaintiffs will have a difficult time proving their case. Although the two sides could consider a settlement, Volkswagen has suggested that it would be hard to imagine that happening. The current proceedings in Braunschweig are only to determine whether the company acted illegally. If the court finds that is the case, then plaintiffs would have to proceed with separate actions to garner a settlement.

In yet another case stemming from the scandal, prosecutors last week announced charges of market manipulation against Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess and also board chairman Hans Dieter Pötsch, as well as former CEO Martin Winterkorn, alleging they deliberately informed markets too late about the huge costs to the company that would result from the scandal. Volkswagen continues to reject these charges.

Other proceedings against Volkswagen stem from the same issue with the 3.0 liter V-6 diesel models. Those cases are being handled separately from those concerning the four-cylinder engine.

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