Volkswagen continues under a diesel-infused cloud of its own making. Even though its emission cheating scandal happened in 2015, the chickens are still coming home to roost. This week, a federal court in Germany ruled in favor of the owners of Volkswagen diesels equipped with pollution control devices programmed to mislead regulators and testing authorities, according to Automotive News.
The action by the court — the highest civil tribunal in the country — means those owners may be entitled to compensation from Volkswagen, which has already shelled out more than $37 billion in various fines, penalties, and buyback programs resulting from its cheating regimen. The ruling applies to some 60,000 individual claims for compensation that have been working their way through the court system in Germany.
Unlike the United States, where the faulty cars were ordered off the road (and where one former Volkswagen of America official is still in prison), officials in Europe allowed the cars to continue in operation provided the computer controlled emissions systems were brought into compliance. Because the owners were allowed to keep driving their cars, Volkswagen argued they had not suffered an economic loss.
The problem is, once the emission defeat software was removed, the cars got nowhere near the same fuel economy as they did previously. That and the stigma of the cheating scandal had a negative impact on their resale value of those cars, which naturally made their owners cranky. [Cranky, by the way, is an Anglicized derivative of the German word for sick — krank. How appropriate. What Volkswagen did was definitely sick. One can only marvel at the hubris of corporate leaders who behaved in such an egregious fashion and believed they would never get caught.]
In light of this most recent ruling, lower courts will now be free to determine what amount of compensation those 60,000 owners are entitled to. Even if it’s a modest €500 per vehicle, the total could be substantial (I am so bad with numbers, I don’t even try anymore. You do the math.) and will be a further financial blow to a company struggling to reinvent itself as a global manufacturer of electric vehicles.
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