Volkswagen has settled a group action brought by more than 90,000 people in England and Wales over the so-called ‘Dieselgate’ scandal and agreed to pay around £200m to the claimants.
The motor giant faced claims over the installation of unlawful ‘defeat devices’ in EA189 diesel engines – fitted in Audi, Seat, Skoda and VW vehicles – which the High Court previously ruled enabled the engine to recognise when it was being tested for compliance with EU emissions standards.
Mr Justice Waksman found in 2020 that the devices reduced the engine’s nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions in tests but that, on the road in normal driving conditions, that function was turned off and impermissible levels of NOx were produced.
The Volkswagen Group today said it has reached an out-of-court settlement with around 91,000 people in a joint statement with three firms representing the claimants: Slater and Gordon, PGMBM and Leigh Day.
The company has made no admissions in respect of liability, causation or loss, saying that ‘the legal costs of litigating this case to a six-month trial in England, and then in relation to any further appeals by either party, were such that settlement was the most prudent course of action commercially’.
VW has agreed to make a payment of £193m to the claimants as well as separate contribution towards the claimants’ legal costs and other fees.
‘The Volkswagen Group would, once again, like to take this opportunity to sincerely apologise to their customers for the two-mode software installed in the EA189 vehicles,’ the statement added. ‘The Volkswagen Group will continue to work to rebuild the trust of their customers here in England and Wales. This settlement represents an important further stage in that process.’
Slater and Gordon chief executive David Whitmore said: ‘I am immensely proud of this result. Over the last five years, Slater and Gordon have rightly dedicated a significant and unwavering commitment to this case, providing an expert voice to around 70,000 claimants. The settlement avoids the need for a lengthy, complex and expensive trial process and we are delighted to have achieved this settlement for our customers as a result of the group action.’
Tony Winterburn, head of consumer protection litigation at PGMBM, which acted for more than 15,000 claimants, said: ‘This is a good day for the claimants and is the culmination of five years of hard-fought litigation.’
Bozena Michalowska and Shazia Yamin from Leigh Day said: ‘We are delighted that this case has finally been settled for our clients and the claimants in the NOx emissions litigation.’
In a separate statement, Leigh Day said it represents over 125,000 vehicle owners in similar claims relating to later VW engine models as well as against several other manufacturers.
Yamin added: ‘I hope that other vehicle manufacturers who stand accused of using software to cheat emissions tests think long and hard about what their customers expect and the harm their vehicles may be causing to public health and the environment.’