The European Court of Justice has ruled that the software used by Volkswagen to control the “neutralization devices” of emissions tests is illegal under European law.
In a ruling that is expected to have significant ramifications for the ongoing class actions brought against Volkswagen, as well as other European automakers such as Audi and Mercedes-Benz parent company Daimler, Europe’s highest court has stood down. row with buyers of Volkswagen diesel vehicles who have claimed they have been tricked into believing that their vehicles produce far less emissions than they actually do under real driving conditions.
Following an initial ruling in April 2020, Europe’s highest court said that diesel emission control devices cannot be justified by the argument that they “help prevent engine aging or clogging”.
Volkswagen had argued for a restrictive interpretation of the law, which would have limited the definition of a defeat device to all technologies and strategies operating “downstream” from the engine (i.e., after production of gas from exhaust).
However, the European Court of Justice ruled that the law should also apply to “upstream” technology, which by definition also includes software used to manipulate exhaust emissions from diesel engines under conditions. test.
Such software “must make it possible to protect the engine against sudden and exceptional damage” and “only the immediate risks of damage which give rise to a specific danger when driving the vehicle” should justify its use, according to the court ruling.
The decision is expected to result in industry-wide changes in the way diesel engine exhaust emissions are controlled. Software functions called thermal windows, where exhaust filtering is lowered or completely stopped to protect engine components at a certain ambient temperature, are widely used by many European car manufacturers.
The ruling also opens the door to the specter of record recalls and broader prosecution.
Owners of certain Volkswagen diesel models have already filed multiple lawsuits against the German automaker, alleging impairment after the manipulation of diesel emissions was exposed by US regulators in September 2015 in a scandal that has up to now cost Volkswagen more than 30 billion euros (£ 27 billion).
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