Slap before BGH: Audi has to pay for the first time in the diesel scandal

Defeat before the BGH
Audi has to pay for the first time in the diesel scandal

Volkswagen supplied the manipulated engines, Audi installed them – and must also be liable for them. This is now decided by the Federal Court of Justice and Audi is now losing out in diesel claims for the first time. The illegal exhaust technology was known to the Ingolstadt car manufacturer, the judge explains.

In the diesel scandal, the Federal Court of Justice (BGH) sentenced the car manufacturer Audi to pay compensation for the first time. In four cases, the Volkswagen subsidiary has to compensate car buyers for the fact that a manipulated VW engine was installed in their vehicles. The BGH thus confirmed a corresponding ruling by the Munich Higher Regional Court and rejected the appeal requested by Audi.

The presiding judge Rüdiger Pamp said in the verdict: “The Munich Higher Regional Court found in an unobjectionable way that Audi used the engines with knowledge and awareness of their inadmissibility.”

In 2020, the Munich Higher Regional Court judges came to the conclusion that at least one person in charge at Audi knew that the engines purchased from the parent company contained an impermissible cut-off device and thus manipulated the exhaust emissions. Audi was thus involved itself and had to repay the customer the purchase price of the vehicle minus a compensation for use. The BGH considered this argument to be viable. So far, the BGH had referred all lawsuits against the VW subsidiary back to the lower courts because it did not consider it to be sufficient evidence that leading Audi managers knew about the manipulation at VW.

Audi denies deliberate deception

The latest decision by the highest civil court could now also affect ongoing proceedings. However, Audi emphasized that these were individual cases. The judgment is not easily transferable to pending lawsuits. “From our point of view, the decision is wrong,” said the group. There is no immoral act of deception on the part of Audi AG, which did not develop the engine. In Karlsruhe, Audi attorney Moritz Becker criticized the fact that the OLG had raised the charge of immoral damage “without even having taken any evidence, without even having said which person it was supposed to have been at Audi”.

The current proceedings involved various Audi models, some of them used cars, that four buyers had acquired for between EUR 12,000 and EUR 30,000. The VW EA 189 engine was installed in all of them. When it became known that the engines had been deliberately tampered with and that the emission levels in road traffic were exceeded, a software update was developed that was also installed on the Audi vehicles. Most buyers sued VW themselves for damages, but some also sued Audi. However, the subsidiary denies having known anything about the manipulation when it decided to buy and install the VW diesel engine.

According to Audi, there are currently still a low four-digit number of pending proceedings. These include cases in which the claims are presumably statute-barred. In addition, however, there are still lawsuits about other diesel engines that were manufactured directly by Audi. Two such cases are to be heard for the first time in Karlsruhe on December 16.

However, the BGH did not follow some of the reasons that the Munich Higher Regional Court had also used for its judgment. In its ruling, the BGH denied that Audi was at fault for the organization because the company completely transferred the type approval of the engine to the parent company VW. According to the BGH, these and other incorrect explanations did not change the fact that Audi’s liability was rightly affirmed in the result.

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