What Is the Dieselgate Scandal About?


The Dieselgate scandal is one of the biggest and costliest scams that have ever happened to the global automotive industry. It started with just one car manufacturer but one carmaker after another eventually became involved in the scandal. 

The diesel emissions scam hasn’t ended yet because car companies and affected car owners continue to deal with the repercussions of the deceitful act.

How it started

In September 2015, the Volkswagen Group became the subject of allegations by the California Air Resources Board and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). According to US officials, they found defeat devices in Audi and Volkswagen diesel vehicles that were sold to American customers. Defeat devices are used to cheat emissions testing so vehicles would appear clean and safe.

Volkswagen initially denied the allegations but later on admitted that they knew about the devices. As such, they marketed and sold the vehicles as an environmental alternative even when they were actually heavy pollutants. The VW Group mis-sold the vehicles and lied to their customers.

The carmaker has spent over £26 billion for payouts to affected drivers and legal costs. They have also settled with US authorities, paying a total of around £12 billion. Although company officials admitted knowing about the device in the initial phase of the diesel emissions scandal, the settlement with US authorities did not include any admission of wrongdoing. 

Volkswagen’s chief executive at the time the scandal broke was Martin Winterkorn. He is facing allegations of fraud although there has been a delay in his trial.

The carmaker said many years have passed since the 2015 scandal and car owners filing or who are planning to file claims may not have enough basis. Nevertheless, affected customers in the UK have already started working on their group litigation case. 

Other carmakers that are involved in the scandal include Mercedes-Benz, Renault, Stellantis, Ford, Peugeot, Nissan, BMW, and Volvo, among others. There are over one million diesel emissions claimants in the UK alone.

The Mercedes emissions scandal reached the UK shores only in 2020. 

How does a defeat device work?

A defeat device is programmed to know when a vehicle is brought to the lab for testing. When it detects the test, it automatically suppresses emissions levels so these would remain within the limits set by the World Health Organization. 

Once the vehicle is on the road – in real-world driving conditions – the emissions double or triple in volume, often going over the set limit regulated by the EU and the WHO. This means the vehicle is a pollutant, emitting high levels of nitrogen oxide or NOx.

Essentially, what VW, Mercedes, and other carmakers involved in the diesel emissions scandal allegedly did was lie to their customers. They sold vehicles equipped with defeat devices as the best alternative for those who are environmentally conscious, as well as those who want a clean, safe, and prize-worthy vehicle.

Nitrogen oxide or NOx, the gas that diesel vehicles emit, is dangerous for the environment and for human health. 

Why is NOx dangerous?

Nitrogen oxide is a gas that has nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and nitric oxide (NO). It helps in the formation of smog and acid rain, and can also create ground-level ozone. 

Ground-level ozone can cause plants and crops to weaken, making them susceptible to extreme weather conditions like frost. 

Some evidence has also been made available about the impact of exposure to NOx emissions to a person’s mental health. It can trigger symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other similar mental issues. 

When it comes to human health, exposure to nitrogen oxide has many impacts. 

If a person is regularly exposed to NOx emissions, they can experience the following health-related issues: 

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Breathing problems/Difficulty in breathing
  • Lung problems
  • Asthma
  • Emphysema
  • Bronchitis
  • Fluid in the lungs
  • Aggravated asthma

If a person is constantly exposed to high levels of NOx emissions can experience:

  • Asphyxiation
  • Fluid in the lungs
  • Chronic lung function reduction
  • Increased risk for certain cancers
  • Increased susceptibility to cardiovascular diseases
  • Spasm of the vocal cords or laryngospasm
  • Fluid build-up in the lungs
  • Premature death

The first case of early death in the UK is that of nine-year-old Ella Kissi-Debrah. Ella had been going in and out of hospitals for months for seizures and respiratory issues. She and her mother lived near the South Circular Road area, which has high levels of toxic gases. Since the young girl walked to school every day, she ingested large volumes of NOx emissions. 

Ella died after a severe asthma attack, but an inquest on her death was ordered. In December 2020, the coroner confirmed what most people had been suspecting – Ella died because of exposure to air pollution.

Today, there are thousands upon thousands of early deaths around the world that are linked to NOx emissions or air pollution.

Holding your carmaker responsible

The health impact of NOx emissions and the lying and mis-selling are only two reasons why you should file a Dieselgate compensation claim against your carmaker. You deserve to be compensated for all the trouble (and danger) that the defeat device in your vehicle has cost you.

Before going any further, however, you should get in touch with a panel of emissions solicitors, such as the ones at ClaimExperts.co.uk; they can help you determine if you are qualified to file a claim or not.

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