Economy & Politics

Volkswagen must go to checkout

Justice on Monday ordered the German manufacturer to partially reimburse a customer who had bought a car fitted with a rigged diesel engine. But this decision should influence tens of thousands of procedures five years after the explosion of the “dieselgate”.

Justice on Monday ordered the German manufacturer to partially reimburse a customer who had bought a car fitted with a rigged diesel engine. But this decision should influence tens of thousands of procedures five years after the explosion of the “dieselgate”.

(AFP) Almost five years after its revelation, the scandal of faked diesel engines is approaching its judicial epilogue, with a decisive stop in Germany in the conflict between Volkswagen and tens of thousands of customers. At the hearing held in early May, the judges of the German Federal Court (BGH) had opened the door to a refund (at least partial) of cheated customers, considering that the purchase of a car equipped with a rigged engine constituted harm in itself. The supreme court of Karlsruhe confirms this preliminary opinion in its judgment delivered on Monday.

This is the first notable legal setback for the automobile giant in Germany, in this scandal which has plunged the German automobile industry, pillar of the country’s economy, into a historic crisis from which it is still struggling to get out. But with an amicable agreement signed to avoid a mega-trial of German customers, and the end of a major criminal investigation, Volkswagen has already drawn a line under a large part of the “dieselgate”.


New car, new range, new logo: for the German automobile giant, the “ID.3” presented on Monday is both a challenge of 30 billion on electrics and the hope of finally turning the page on “ dieselgate “.


This time, the Court was interested in the case of Herbert Gilbert who, in 2014, bought a used Volkswagen Sharan diesel, one of the 11 million vehicles in which the manufacturer admitted in September 2015 to have placed software rigging polluting emissions.

The Court of Appeal had ruled in favor of the pensioner, ordering the manufacturer to pay 25,616 euros and to take back the vehicle (sum lower than the purchase price because the judges took into account the loss of value due to use). Volkswagen and the applicant had appealed. The first believing that a refund is not necessary and the other to receive the full purchase price.

The decision comes after the end of an unprecedented trial in Germany in April, similar to an American class action involving hundreds of thousands of applicants. Volkswagen will spend at least 750 million euros to compensate 235,000 customers under an amicable agreement, a sum that may seem small compared to the more than 30 billion euros that have already cost the scandal to the manufacturer, mainly in the United States.

Investigations and prosecutions

Some 60,000 individual customer claims are still being tried in German courts, and the Federal Court ruling will be crucial for them. There also remain two major investigations targeting ex-boss Martin Winterkorn, dismissed for “manipulation of the stock market price” and “aggravated fraud”, and the ex-CEO of Audi Rupert Stadler. Another investigation by the Stuttgart prosecutor’s office targets Mr Pötsch.

Also to be followed is a large lawsuit brought by various investors who are demanding reimbursement for the spectacular fall in the Volkswagen share price. The end of the investigation against the directors, however, considerably strengthened the manufacturer’s position in this case.


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