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Thousands of UK motorists have won the first stage of a High Court action against Volkswagen over the installation of emissions cheating devices in its diesel vehicles.

It follows a preliminary hearing in December, when the court was asked whether software installed in the cars was a “defeat device” under EU rules. Volkswagen said it was “disappointed” and said may appeal the decision.

A spokesperson for the German carmaker said: “To be clear, today’s decision does not determine liability or any issues of causation or loss for any of the causes of action claimed. These remain to be determined by the court as the case continues.”

The case being heard at the High Court is the latest in a global storm of litigation facing VW. So far, the group has paid out €30bn (£26bn) worldwide.

About 90,000 motorists in England and Wales have brought action against VW as well as Audi, Seat and Skoda, which are also owned by Volkswagen Group.

They are seeking compensation in a case which could be the largest consumer action in English legal history.

The so-called “dieselgate” scandal broke in September 2015.

The use of defeat devices meant that Volkswagen’s cars were certified as conforming to EU pollution standards. But, in reality, the vehicles were emitting up to 40 times the legally permitted amount of nitrogen dioxide.

The German carmaker admitted that 11 million vehicles worldwide, including almost 1.2 million in the UK, were affected.

Since then, senior bosses including chief executive Martin Winterkorn have stepped down, while some have been charged with criminal offences in Germany and the US.

The High Court ruling applies not only to VW cars, but also to those manufactured by Audi, Seat and Skoda.

Mr Justice Waksman described some of Volkswagen’s arguments that the vehicles did not contain defeat devices as “completely irrelevant”, “hopeless” and “highly flawed”.

 

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