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Emissions scandal: car companies in court again

In the USA, the VW Group has suffered a legal defeat because of Dieselgate, which could cost it billions. In Germany, customers who want to take legal action against Daimler because of the so-called thermal windows probably have rather bad chances.

Yesterday, Tuesday, the VW group suffered a probably costly defeat in Ohio, USA. The Ohio Supreme Court ruled that the state itself can impose sanctions against the carmaker, even if the matter has already been decided at the US federal level. This decision could also have a signal effect for other states to take further action against VW over the emissions scandal.

VW had already had to pay heavy fines at the US federal level on the basis of the Clean Air Act. The German car company now wants to go to the Supreme Court, the highest US court, to challenge the Ohio court's decision. Other US courts, unlike in Ohio, had in fact already ruled against sanctions imposed by individual states before. So how the Supreme Court will rule is open. If VW were indeed to have sanctions imposed by individual states, the costs would run into the billions.

In Germany, meanwhile, there is bad news for plaintiffs against the car company Daimler. According to the Federal Court of Justice (BGH), they have little chance of compensation in the case of the thermo windows. Thermo windows are software devices that down-regulate exhaust gas purification when the engine is not at the optimal temperature to perform the purification. This is to protect the engine and catalytic converter. However, the thermal windows can also be used to turn down the exhaust gas cleaning over a longer period of time in order to save fuel or increase the performance of the vehicle. In this case, the vehicle's emissions are significantly higher than stated.

According to the Federal Supreme Court, the plaintiffs' chances against the thermal windows are poor, as the car manufacturer would first have to be proven to have deliberately deceived the public. However, it is currently not proven that Daimler employees had deliberately used the software and condoned the violation of the law.

The thermal windows show that even after Dieselgate, the car companies continue to fiddle with the emissions of the vehicles, or at least do not fully disclose them. It is understandable, for example, that the engine must be protected under certain conditions such as extreme cold. But the fact that customers are not informed about the actual emissions should still be punished by the court. Otherwise, the supposedly clean vehicles will continue to cause much more emissions than stated and lead to bad air and exceeded limit values in the cities. We all know the consequences of this: environmental zones, diesel driving ban zones and more and more restrictions.