Germany: the high court settles on the “dieselgate”

Allemagne: la plus haute juridiction tranche sur le « dieselgate »

FRANKFURT | Almost five years after its collapse, the scandal of diesel engines-fixing approaches Monday in his epilogue judicial, with a stop decisive in Germany in the conflict between Volkswagen, with tens of thousands of customers.

At the hearing held in early may, the judges of the German federal Court (BGH) has opened the door to a repayment of at least part of the customers cheated, believing that the purchase of a car with a motor rigged constituted a harm in and of itself.

If the supreme court in Karlsruhe confirms this preliminary view in its judgment from 5 p.m., tens of thousands of procedures refund still pending in Germany could be completed in the coming months.

It would be 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.

But with a friendly settlement agreement signed to avoid a mega-trial of German customers, and the end of a major criminal investigation, Volkswagen has already drawn a line on a large part of the ” dieselgate “.

The Court looked at the case of Herbert Gilbert, 65, who has bought a used 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

The Court of appeal had given reason to a pensioner, condemning the builder to pay 25 616 euro and return to the vehicle — an amount that is lower than the purchase price of 31 490 euros, because the judges have taken into account the loss of value due to use.

Volkswagen and the applicant appealed the first one, because it considers that a refund does not take place to be and the other to receive the entire purchase price.

If the judges in Karlsruhe settle for a refund, the refund must “take into account to a certain extent” the use of the vehicle, and thus its loss of value, explained the judge Stephan Seiters at the hearing. What limit the financial impact for the automotive group, in which the scandal has already cost more than 30 billion euros.

So much so that the decision is made 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.

Epilogue?

Have “clarity” on “the opinion of the BGH regarding a number of legal issues (…) could facilitate the successful completion of many procedures,” says the manufacturer. Amicable agreements could therefore grow.

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 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 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. The end of the investigation against the officers, however, has considerably strengthened the position of the constructor in this case.

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