There are many that think that 2015's diesel emissions scandal is over. But as this latest report from Germany makes clear, the global auto industry's biggest deception scandal (AKA: dieselgate) is far from done.
If anything, a new chapter is just beginning.
According to Deutsche Welle (DW), Germany's Federal Court of Justice (BGH, or Bundesgerichtshof) has just ruled in favor of a plaintiff that sued Volkswagen for a refund of a TDI-powered vehicle that was fitted with the defeat device to cheat emissions tests.
This was the first case in Germany brought forth to the courts, and resulted in Volkswagen being ordered to render financial reimbursement to the plaintiff when the vehicle is returned; effectively a refund.
"The behavior of the defendants is to be deemed unethical," was the statement from the presiding German federal judge, Stephan Seiters.
The court was reported as ordering that the mileage of the vehicle be factored in to adjust for depreciation, and for Volkswagen to compensate the owner accordingly upon the vehicle's return.
More importantly, this case in Germany's highest court has set a precedent for other similar dieselgate cases against Volkswagen in Germany, giving other courts a framework with which to answer the many pending claims. According to various reports, there are about 60,000 pending cases from individual customers.
In 2015, Volkswagen's TDI diesel vehicles were caught with a defeat device that allows temporary compliance with diesel emissions regulations at the time. The device is technically software that detects when the turbodiesel vehicle is on a static dynamometer to undergo emissions tests and adjusts the engine's exhaust emissions system accordingly and temporarily.
When taken out for a drive (i.e. when there's steering input) the software relaxes the emissions test protocol; effectively flouting emissions standards by releasing up to 40 times the mandated level of harmful nitrogen oxides.
The discovery of the defeat device led to a massive scandal in the United States wherein Volkswagen TDI models are marketed as “Clean Diesels”. The scandal led to billions other in penalties paid to the government, refunds to customers, and widespread lawsuits. There are (and were) also a lot of cases with regards to the management and executives of Volkswagen AG, though those had been reportedly settled.
A wider check (after VW attempts to hide it) revealed that many Volkswagen models (including Volkswagen Group models like Porsche, Audi, and the like) globally also have the software, including models in their home market: Germany.
Volkswagen had previously agreed to pay damages to a class action suit that covered about 260,000 customers in Germany in the amount of EUR 1,350 to 6,257 each, depending on depreciation. The German settlement (which totals about EUR 830 million) is far less than the U.S. settlement wherein the judge ordered VW to pay upwards of USD 15.3 billion to U.S. customers.
German VW TDI owners who didn't agree with the settlement of the class-action suit had the option to pursue individual cases.