Launched by solicitors Leigh Day yesterday, it alleges that the company tried to hide the issue by fixing the affected cars covertly. It has only admitted that engine management software developed for the EA189 engine alone could detect when it was under test and adjust its emissions performance accordingly.
The Volkswagen Group includes Volkswagen itself, Audi, Porsche, SEAT, and Škoda, plus several sports car, lorry and van brands.
Leigh Day are currently representing over 4,300 vehicle owners in this claim, a number it says is “growing rapidly”. But up to 1.26m potentially affected vehicles are on the road, it says, far more than caught up in the original dieselgate scandal. The new challenge covers vehicles with 3.0l, 3.0l V6, 4.0l V8, 4.2l V8, EA897, EA898 and EA288 engines. Vehicles made with these by the subsidiary brands are currently under investigation and mpay be eligible to join the claim at a later date.
Leigh Day alleges that instead of admitting that the scandal went beyond the EA189 engine, “The manufacturers covertly made fundamental changes to the affected vehicles during voluntary or mandatory recalls or at other stages when vehicles were presented for repairs or services without informing customers adequately, or at all, of the changes made and their implications.”
The solicitors further allege that the Volkswagen group “suppressed clean emissions technology and concealed those actions from regulators and customers alike”.
The claim is set out under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, the Consumer Credit Act 1974 and competition and contractual law, alongside the tort of deceit and breaches of statutory duties.
In parallel, the law firm is also investigating emission claims against almost every major automotive brand, including BMW, Citroën, Jaguar, Landrover, Ford, Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, Renault and Nissan.
“We have now issued the second VW claim in the High Court, and we believe we are the first law firm to do this. Our clients will argue that the VW group went to great lengths to try and cover up this wider emissions scandal. The group tried to fix the emissions defeat device under the guise of regular services or recalls, without informing their customers,” said solicitor Meriel Hodgson-Teall.
“After the emissions scandal was uncovered in 2015, VW tried their hardest to try to confine it to vehicles with EA189 engines – but it now seems clear that this was not the case. Big businesses should not be allowed to get away with deceiving their customers or the regulators, not to mention their complete disregard for the environmental impact of their actions,” he continued.
The first claim against the group is set to go to trial in January 2023, eight years after the dieselgate scandal broke. Leigh Day is pursuing it jointly with lawyers Slater and Gordon.
A Volkswagen spokesperson said the group has not been contacted in relation to the engines in question, and “While we cannot comment in detail without having seen the specifics, we do not believe that such a claim would have any merit. Vehicles fitted with these engines have always been and continue to be roadworthy, legal to drive and have approval from the relevant regulatory bodies.”