Diesel plaintiffs go away empty-handed in Karlsruhe

Karlsruhe (dpa) – Diesel plaintiffs at the Federal Court of Justice (BGH) got a damper on two issues.

The highest civil judges in Karlsruhe decided that leasing customers with a car affected by the VW emissions scandal usually does not get any money back from the installments. In addition, several claims for damages against Daimler because of the so-called thermal window in Mercedes diesels were dismissed.

No money back for leasing customers of the VW Group

When leasing buys the customer does not use the car, but pays monthly installments over an agreed period of time, like renting it. Here the judges see an important difference to the purchase: While a purchased car may be driven until it is ready for scrap, the use of the vehicle in leasing has “its own, fundamentally time-related value”.

For the Senate The following principle therefore applies: Anyone who was able to use their diesel engine “without significant restrictions” over the entire leasing period has no claim to compensation. The customer had an advantage and paid installments for it, both of which outweighed each other takes over after the leasing period. But that was not the case here.

Volkswagen welcomed the ruling that the BGH had confirmed the prevailing view of the higher court rulings. The decision concerns a four-digit number of vehicles.

The plaintiff, a man from the Ostalb district in Baden-Württemberg, had leased his Audi with the scandal engine EA 189 for four years and then bought. In addition to the leasing installments, he wanted the purchase price back.

According to the Karlsruhe case law on the VW emissions scandal, that would actually also be possible. Those affected can return their car, but do not get the full purchase price back. A compensation for use is deducted for the kilometers driven.

The problem here: The man had not sued the parent company VW, but the subsidiary Audi. And the EA 189 engine with the illegal exhaust technology was also used at Audi, but developed at VW. The BGH has so far lacked sufficient evidence that those responsible for Audi were entangled in the customer deception. The plaintiff, however, is given the opportunity to present more specific information at the Stuttgart Higher Regional Court (OLG).

Volkswagen had secretly used fraudulent software in millions of diesel cars that concealed in official tests that there were actually too many pollutants were expelled. Since Thursday, four former managers and engineers have therefore had to answer in criminal proceedings before the Braunschweig Regional Court.

No compensation for the Daimler thermal window

Thousands of plaintiffs throw it Stuttgart car maker Daimler claims to have also used an illegal shutdown device in diesel cars – the “thermal window”. To ensure that vehicles emit less toxic nitrogen oxides, some of the exhaust gases are burned directly in the engine. If the outside temperature is cooler, this mechanism is automatically throttled. The manufacturers say that this is necessary to protect the engine.

The BGH had already dealt with the thermal window several times and thinks that the comparison with VW is limping. The VW fraud software switched to a different mode on the test bench. The thermal window, on the other hand, always works the same – whether on the road or in the test.

This time it was another Senate’s turn, but it reiterated earlier decisions according to which Daimler is not immediately accused of fraudulent intent only because of the use of the technology can. For this, it would have to be proven to those responsible that they deliberately wanted to deceive the authorities.

Concrete evidence has not yet been put forward, not even by the four car buyers whose complaints have now been dismissed. In the lower court at the Higher Regional Court in Koblenz, they claimed that Daimler had tailored the mechanism exactly to the test conditions in order to be able to comply with the limit values. The BGH judges saw no evidence for this.

Daimler welcomed the decision. It is said to have “a leading character for thousands of legal proceedings in Germany”.

The BGH lawyer for the plaintiffs, Siegfried Mennemeyer, criticized that consumers were asked for information that they could not have at all. It is time to get an expert opinion. «There has to be some light in the dark.»

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