Karlsruhe, In a judgment that should be the determining factor for tens of thousands of procedures, the highest German court has sentenced Monday Volkswagen to partially repay a customer who had purchased a car equipped with a diesel engine rigged, five years after the revelation of this scandal sprawling.
This is the first setback for judicial notable for the giant of the automobile in Germany, in the scandal that has plunged the German automotive industry, a pillar of the economy of the country, in a historical crisis in which it is still struggling to get out.
The judges of the German federal Court (BGH) has, inter alia, that the purchase of a car with a motor rigged constituted a harm in and of itself, even if, as Volkswagen had argued, the vehicle was still “usable”.
Volkswagen will now offer the” amicable solutions to settle “a large portion of the 60,000 individual procedures in progress,” explains the group in a press release.
With the friendly settlement agreement signed at the end of February to avoid a mega-trial of German customers, and the end of a major criminal investigation, Volkswagen is approaching the epilogue of court “dieselgate”.
The Court in Karlsruhe was interested in the case of Herbert Gilbert, 65 years old, who had purchased second-hand 2014 Volkswagen Sharan diesel, is one of the 11 million vehicles in which the manufacturer has admitted in September 2015 you have placed the software, rigging the emissions.
11 million cars
In equipping its cars software to make them appear cleaner than they are in reality, the automotive group of germany has “cheated knowingly and systematically for several years” the authorities, “in a perspective of profitability,” explained the judge Stephan Seiters.
The behavior of Volkswagen “is objectively qualifiable contrary to the conveniences of moral” and “particularly reprehensible”, he insisted.
The Court of appeal had given reason to a pensioner, condemning the builder to pay 25 616 euros and to take the vehicle — an amount lower than the purchase price of 31. 490 euros, because the judges have taken into account the loss of value due to use, a rationale endorsed on Monday by the federal Court.
The decision comes after the end in April of a trial without precedent in Germany, similar to a “class action” in the u.s. involving hundreds of thousands of applicants.
Volkswagen will pay at least 750 million euros to compensate for 235 000 customers in under an amicable agreement, a sum which may seem low compared to the more than 30 billion euros, which has already cost the scandal to the manufacturer, primarily in the United States.
Some 60 000 requests of individual clients continue however before the German courts and the judgment of the federal Court will, for them, crucial.
So far, Volkswagen has already led to tens of thousands of cases. According to several surveys of the German press, the manufacturer has particularly attempted to delay the arrival of the “dieselgate” before the High Court to take advantage of the loss of value of the vehicle, as VW denies.
In criminal cases, the page is rotated to the current boss Herbert Diess, returned before a tribunal in September 2019 by the prosecutor’s office of Brunswick for market manipulation, along with the director of the supervisory board Hans Dieter Pötsch. The two that come to avoid a trial for the settlement of 9 million euros in the framework of an agreement with the justice.
The only major investigations remaining aim the ex-boss Martin Winterkorn, referred to “manipulation of Stock price” and “fraud aggravated”, and the former CEO of Audi, Rupert Stadler. Another survey of the public prosecutor of Stuttgart is Mr. Pötsch.
Remains a major lawsuit from investors who claim the refund for the dramatic drop in the share price of Volkswagen. A crucial point is to know that, in the highest ranks of the company, had knowledge of the cheating and the financial and legal risks associated with it.
The end of the criminal investigation against some officers, has strengthened the position of the manufacturer in this case. But the BGH, far from absolving senior officials, considers in its judgment that “the strategic decisions on the development and use of the software” fraud were required “at least the knowledge and approval” of the executive board of the time.