The scandal with the noxious emissions of Volkswagen (VW) Group passenger cars

Loud reactions in the automobile industry world and worry and anger to millions of consumers/owners of diesel cars, in the United States, Europe, Greece and in the whole world have been caused by the recently revealed case of the Volkswagen (VW) diesel motor-vehicle engines by the American Authorities.

On September 19, 2015 the Environmental Protection Agency of the United States (EPA) announced that the diesel generators of several Volkswagen and Audi 2009-2015 cars have been equipped with software which falsifies the noxious gases emission data during emission checks. This results to the measurements appearing to be in compliance with the maximum emission limits set by the legislation, whereas these are greatly exceeded when the vehicle is on road.

The US environmental protection authority EPA announced that the actual gas emissions of these engines are, particularly as far as the emission of nitrogen oxides (NOx) are concerned, some 10 to 40 times higher than the limits set by US legislation.

This software which has been installed by the manufacturer Volkswagen (VW), is a “defeat device”, as this term is defined in the US Clean Air Act, as well as by the European Union legislation. According to the initial announcement of the Environmental Protection Agency of the USA, the device has been installed to approximately 500.000 passenger vehicles that have been placed into the US automobile market by Volkswagen Group.

On 22 September 2015, in a dramatic turn of the case, Volkswagen announced that the specific device affects all vehicles fitted with the Type EA 189 Engine (diesel engines). As per the manufacturer, around 11 million cars with this type of engine have been sold and circulated around the globe, including Europe.

The evidence so far suggests that the very high gas emission of nitrogen oxides of the specific diesel engines found in the tests of the US Environmental Authorities, are also much higher than the –more lenient –limits set by European legislation.

Senior officials of the VW automobile industry have admitted in the media that the software in question was placed knowingly in order to “cheat”the emission gas tests! On September 23, 2015, the General Manager of Volkswagen confessed the scandal and resigned

According to the EPA public announcements, the deceitful software has been installed in diesel engines of following vehicle models:

  • Jetta (model years 2009 to 2015)
  • Jetta Sportwagen (MY 2009-2014)
  • Beetle (MY 2012-2015)
  • Beetle Convertible (MY 2012 to 2015)
  • Audi A3 (MY 2010-2015)
  • Golf (MY 2010-2015)
  • Golf Sportwagen (MY 2015)
  • Passat (MY 2012-2015)

However, as the days go by, it is reported in the media but also by releases from official European sources that many more car types and models are “affected”, including 1.2, 1.6, 2.00 liters Volkswagen diesel (TDI) vehicles, but also Skoda and Seat diesel automobiles.

The European Commission has stated that it is in contact with Volkswagen and the competent supervisory authorities of the USA to determine the extent of the problem and its exact nature. At the same time representatives of the Member States are pushing for the immediate opening of a formal investigation of the scandal by the competent European institutions. The European Commission currently has made recommendations to Member States to launch checks on vehicles at national level.

As soon as it confirmed, as expected, that some 11 million vehicles that have been equipped with the deceitful software have been sold in Europe, there will be no doubt that the owners of such vehicles, including the owners in Greece, will have claims for their damages. These may be based on consumer protection law, on the contractual liability of the manufacturer on the basis of the contract of sale, and possibly on the basis of the tortuous liability of the manufacturer. There will be claims for the compensation and restoration of any economic damage suffered by the vehicle owners due to the depreciation of their vehicles, for the initial imposition or imposition of higher road taxes based on actual gas emission rates etc., not excluding claims for non pecuniary damages for the deception suffered by consumers when purchasing their vehicles.

As expected, there is much action, at international level, for the protection and pursuit of the legal rights of the victims of this unprecedented history. Class actions have been brought in the US. Similar preparation and mobilization for the assertion and protection of the rights of victims, with lawsuits – individual, class or group actions – or out of court procedures, is taking place in almost all European countries.

Pavlakis – Moschos & Associates Law Offices, being a member of the Global Justice Network international network of lawyers, is following closely the matter and is investigating the possibility of legal actions for the protection of the rights of those who have been affected by the scandal in Greece and at European level. Members of the Global Justice Network have already filed class action suits in the USA representing claimants against Volkswagen Group of Americas, Inc..

Owners of diesel cars suspecting that their vehicle might fall within the aforementioned list, are advised to check their vehicle documentation and vehicle registration documents in order to confirm whether their vehicle has a Type EA 189 Engine or falls under the “affected” types of cars.

It is certain that there will be further developments in relation to the investigations conducted worldwide, both at technical and legal levels. Volkswagen will be required compensate in various ways the economic damage that has – intentionally – caused to millions of consumers, buyers and users of its vehicles.

Apart from the financial damages, it is undoubtedly shocking that millions of unsuspected consumers, ordinary people like all of us, unintentionally became accomplices to the huge ecological burden of Volkswagen to our planet.