Top German court asked: Is Audi liable in emissions-rigging scandal?

By Anja Semmelroch and Rachel More, dpa

Tens of thousands of car owners in Germany are entitled to damages in the Volkswagen diesel scandal in the wake of a 2020 landmark court ruling – but many questions remain.

One of these was posed to the Federal Court of Justice (BGH) on Monday: What about Volkswagen’s Audi subsidiary?

In September 2015, it emerged that Volkswagen had fitted millions of its vehicles worldwide with a so-called defeat device, designed to make the engines run cleaner during environmental testing than they did on the road.

More than five years after the scandal first broke, Germany is still reckoning with the impact of the conspiracy.

In May 2020, the Federal Court of Justice said VW had knowingly deceived its customers in Germany, paving the way for car owners to claim damages.

In a case that could set a further precedent, a man from the central state of Saxony-Anhalt is now suing Audi directly, rather than the Volkswagen Group.

The EA189 diesel engine in his car was developed by Volkswagen.

Nonetheless, a lower court in the town of Naumburg ruled that Audi should pay out around 20,000 euros (24,226 dollars) plus interest to settle the complaint.

The judges said the luxury carmaker was just as liable because it had used the unauthorized technology in its vehicles and put them on the market.

The federal court is convening to consider the case on Monday, with a decision expected to come in the following days.

According to Audi, the number of cases that would be impacted by the top court’s ruling is in the low thousands.

However, some may still not be able to sue because they either bought their car a very long time ago or after the emissions-rigging became public.

In any case, claimants are not entitled to claim back the full price of the vehicle they purchased, after the BGH previously ruled that mileage must be taken into account.

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