Volkswagen faces the threat of a huge “dieselgate” payout in Britain following a court Monday ruled in favor of over 90,000 drivers whose vehicles cheated emissions tests.
After adverse rulings and compensation payouts elsewhere, the High Court in London ruled that the German auto giant was responsible in Britain, as well.
The ruling adds pressure on the automaker just after the automaker stated last month it was preparing to shutter majority of its European plants, joining a number of other automakers as the coronavirus pandemic disrupts supply chains and sends demand decline.
The British judgement concerned “defeat devices” set up in about 1.2 million Volkswagen, Audi, Seat and Skoda diesel vehicles in Britain, which artificially lowered emissions.
The court found the devices were a “fundamental subversion” of European Union tests made to limit noxious pollutants, and will rule later on compensation to the owners.
VW confessed in 2015 to fitting 11 million vehicles globally with software to make engines appear less polluting in regulatory tests than in real driving conditions.
So far the legal fallout has cost VW over 30 billion euros ($32.3 billion) in costs, fines and compensation, much of it in the United States and Germany.
Gareth Pope, head of group litigation at Slater and Gordon, which represents about 70,000 of the British claimants, welcomed the “damning judgement”.
He said it “exposes Volkswagen’s disregard for EU emissions regulations and public health in pursuit of profit and market dominance”.
Pope demanded the automaker end the “shameful episode” and settle with the plaintiffs. The company, however, stated it would consider grounds for appeal.
“While Volkswagen is disappointed that the outcome was not in our favor, the judgement relates only to preliminary issues,” it stated.
It was still to be determined if the vehicle owners had dealt with the actual losses, the company insisted, adding: “We will continue to defend our position robustly.”