Car manufacturers, including Vauxhall, the Volkswagen Group (VW) and Mercedes-Benz, allegedly cheated emissions regulations. By fitting illegal defeat devices into some diesel vehicles, high levels of nitrogen oxides (NOx) – sometimes up to 35 times the legal limit – were emitted into the earth’s atmosphere. The emissions cheating scandal known as Dieselgate has caused irreparable harm to our environment.
Defeat devices can detect when a car is being tested and activate equipment that reduces emissions. But the software turns the equipment down and sometimes completely off during real-world driving conditions, increasing emissions far above legal limits.
Millions of vehicles have been affected. Following this scandal, billions of euros have been paid to settle class-action claims and regulatory fines – although affected drivers in England and Wales have yet to receive any compensation. Keller Lenkner UK is working to rectify this.
Has emissions cheating hastened the shift towards greener vehicles?
Since the Volkswagen Group admitted that it had cheated emissions tests, the company began a radical move towards electric vehicles. However, despite its PR efforts, some doubts remain about its commitment in this area. In addition to the defeat device controversy, VW (along with other car manufacturers) was found to have illegally colluded over emissions technology.
In July 2021, the European Commission found that Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz were guilty of breaking EU antitrust rules by conspiring to prevent the deployment of clean emissions technology. Volkswagen and BMW have been fined a total of €875 million for breaking EU rules. But for Daimler’s (the parent company of Mercedes-Benz) assistance with the Commission’s investigation, it would also have been fined €727 million.
Nevertheless, in the wake of dieselgate, VW has now adopted a greener business model. In 2019, Volkswagen announced that it would launch almost 70 new electric models by 2028 and fast-track the rollout of zero-emission cars. Europe’s leading clean transport campaign group Transport & Environment (T&E) heralded the move as “a game-changer for the automotive industry” and the “first credible climate plan by a major automaker”.
However, as of yet, there doesn’t seem to have been a notable industry-wide shift towards electrification, with analysis by the T&E reporting that Volkswagen and Volvo are the “only major carmakers ready to switch to electric in line with Europe’s net-zero climate target”.
The power of the consumer
In May 2021, research by Ofgem (the UK’s independent energy regulator) found that almost one in four consumers plan to buy an electric vehicle or plug-in hybrid in the next five years. Ahead of COP26, Ofgem has also set out how it aims to support the rollout of electric vehicles in Britain by removing existing barriers. Furthermore, while the car manufacturers have been reluctant to shift production from profitable internal combustion engines due to expense, a new report has found that, by 2024, electric cars will cost the same to make as conventional models.
The dieselgate scandal has had a disastrous impact on our environment and human health. But, in coming to light, the commonplace practice of falsifying emissions results is now extinct. Not least because the resulting regulatory fines and compensation claims have made the cost of cheating not worthwhile. So, while there are still some challenges to overcome before electric vehicles replace traditional cars on our roads, everything could be about to change. At Keller Lenkner UK, we would argue that holding manufacturers to account for their environmental failings has been crucial to this evolution.
Do you have a dieselgate claim?
Keller Lenkner UK currently represents tens of thousands of customers affected by the dieselgate scandal in England and Wales. Experts in group litigation and multi-claimant actions against large, well-funded corporations, we have everything it takes to win when it comes to getting justice for our clients.