41,000 owners are bringing a class action against the manufacturer citing poor performance, worse fuel consumption – and no compensation
More than half of VW, Audi and Skoda owners who had their cars “fixed” following the “diesel-gate” emissions scandal have subsequently suffered poor performance and worse fuel consumption, according to a legal firm behind a class action against VW.
Around 41,000 owners have so far joined the action by Harcus Sinclair UK. VW has recalled 1.2m cars in the UK after it was caught cheating emissions tests two years ago, but growing numbers of owners are refusing to have the free work done because of the alleged post-fix problems.
Harcus Sinclair says its survey found that 53%, or 2,706 drivers, had reported reduced fuel efficiency following the “fix”. More than 40% suffered reduced power and acceleration, while 739 reported a sudden loss of power as the car went into “limp home” mode.
VW has so far refused to compensate those affected in the UK and has vowed to fight the legal action. Last month it also faced fresh allegations that the the “fix” for affected cars may not make a difference in the real world, following a leak of internal documents in German media.
Damon Parker, head of litigation at Harcus Sinclair UK, said: “These results show that the ‘fix’ intended to reduce NOx emissions may, in fact, have a detrimental impact on the car’s performance and running costs. It has been almost two years since the scandal was exposed and the only thing that UK consumers have been offered is a so-called ‘fix’. A survey of our clients suggests it has caused other mechanical problems, leading to greater inconvenience, anxiety over their cars’ safety and additional cost to them.”
Affected cars include VW, Audi, SEAT and Škoda with 1.2, 1.6 and 2.0 EA 189 diesel engines manufactured between 2009 and 2015. Most require a simple software upgrade, but some – those with the 1.6 litre diesel engine – have needed major work.
Parker says the legal case will likely focus on whether the cars should have been certified as fit for sale as they allegedly produced higher emissions of NOx than the rules allowed due to their engines being fitted with a “defeat device”.
The UK government has supported the “fix” which, for most vehicles, has been approved by German regulators. Transport minister, John Hayes, said in April that he was calling on VW to offer a compensation package to UK consumers. The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs has said NOx emissions cause 23,000 premature deaths in the UK each year.
In March, the Guardian featured the case of James Harrison who claimed that the “fix” had ruined his family’s 2010 Golf 1.6 diesel. Following the work the car began to stall and was difficult to restart.
Other VW owners have reported that components from the exhaust gas recirculation system and the diesel particulate filter are commonly in need of being replaced after the “fix” is applied. In some cases VW has paid for the work, but in others it has left the owner with large £1,000+ bills.
A spokesman for VW said: “This survey has been designed by a law firm to support the claim it is bringing for compensation against Volkswagen. We have serious misgivings about its impartiality and methodology. It is limited to the law firm’s clients who are likely to have different characteristics from the population of affected vehicle owners in the UK as a whole. Even among that interested group the survey response rate was less than 25%, and only half the respondents reported any problem.
“In stark contrast, in the UK Volkswagen has implemented the technical measures in over 720,000 vehicles and in over 5m vehicles across Europe. There is no systemic problem. The overwhelming majority of our customers have been fully satisfied. Put another way, around 5m customers have not reported any problems with the technical measures.”
He added: “We also want to stress that the technical measures do not affect the performance or safety of a vehicle. Implementation of the technical measures does not cause limp home mode to engage nor does it increase the incidence of limp home mode occurring.”
An investigation by the BBC’s Watchdog programme into cars losing power is on BBC 1 tonight at 8pm.
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