Germany: Payout talks stall in Volkswagen ‘Dieselgate’ scandal

Consumer representatives and car giant Volkswagen each blamed the other Friday for a breakdown in talks over a settlement for 400,000 German customers in the firm's "dieselgate" emissions cheating scandal.

Germany: Payout talks stall in Volkswagen 'Dieselgate' scandal
Photo: DPA

VW took the first shot, saying it had offered 830 million euros ($900 million) to consumer organisation VZBV but that “disproportionate” fee demands from its lawyers had torpedoed the deal. 

In a statement, the sprawling 12-brand group later said it would “offer customers registered as part of the mass lawsuit… the negotiated settlement without support from the VZBV”.

For his part, VZBV director Klaus Mueller told reporters in Berlin that the talks “failed because of VW's lack of openness to enable a transparent, trustworthy and secure system” to actually pay out the cash.

“We cannot in any way support a settlement that isn't trustworthy or that has impossible to predict consequences for consumers,” he added.

The mass lawsuit is one of the biggest legal hangovers from VW's 2015 admission to fitting 11 million vehicles worldwide with software to make the engines appear less polluting in regulatory tests than in real driving conditions.

While American diesel buyers have enjoyed generous buy-back and compensation schemes, German drivers have so far gone uncompensated for the impact of the scandal, which has since spread to other carmakers.

Some 400,000 owners had rallied behind the VZBV in the first-of-its-kind grouped proceeding, which opened last September.

Around 70,000 individuals also have open claims against VW, while 55,000 cases have been settled or decided in court.

“We will continue the court case with all our strength,” Mueller said, adding that “it's baffling to me that VW broke off talks in this way today.”

30 billion euros

Volkswagen said in an online announcement it was ready to pay out between 1,350 and 6,257 euros per vehicle, depending on model and age, so long as it had been purchased before Jan 1, 2016, with the buyer a German resident and still in possession of the car.

So far the fallout from diesel cheating has cost VW more than 30 billion euros worldwide in legal costs, fines and compensation, most of it in the US.

A response from the authorities was slower to come and less painful in Germany, with VW and subsidiaries Audi and Porsche paying a total of 2.3 billion euros in fines in the group's home country.

Meanwhile the company's efforts to polish up its image have prompted bosses to pivot sharply towards offering far more electric vehicles in the coming years than previously planned.

VW's shares fell Friday, but losses were limited because investors thought any final settlement with German drivers would only be a tiny fraction of the total costs of dieselgate so far.

The stock closed at 170.46 euros on the Frankfurt stock exchange Friday, down 1.2 percent, clearly underperforming the  DAX blue chip index.

As well as the car owners, investors have also launched mass lawsuits relating to “dieselgate”.

They demand compensation for VW shares' loss in value immediately after the scandal broke.a

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Two hospitalized in Munich after activist crashes parachute into Euro 2020 stadium

At least two people were hospitalised Tuesday after a Greenpeace activist crash-landed on the pitch before the Germany-France match at Euro 2020 when his powered parachute microlight struck spidercam cables at Munich's Allianz Arena.

Two hospitalized in Munich after activist crashes parachute into Euro 2020 stadium
The activist lands on the turf of the Allianz Arena. credit: dpa | Christian Charisius

The pilot flew over the pitch just before kick-off in the Group F clash with “Kick out oil” written on the canopy of his parachute.

However, when the pilot hit television cables above the pitch, it knocked his microlight off balance and he landed on the turf after clipping one of the stands, where the casualties happened.

The activist was arrested soon after landing.

A Munich police spokesman told AFP that at least two people suffered head injuries and “both had to be taken to hospital, we don’t know yet how serious the injuries are”.

The police spokesman said the activist appears to have escaped injury, but “we are considering various criminal charges. Munich police has zero understanding for political actions that put lives at risk”.

UEFA also slammed the botched stunt.

“This inconsiderate act – which could have had very serious consequences for a huge number of people attending – caused injuries to several people attending the game who are now in hospital and law authorities will take the necessary action,” European football’s governing body said in a statement.

The parachutist above the stadium. Photo: dpa | Matthias Balk

“The staging of the match was fortunately not impacted by such a reckless and dangerous action, but several people were injured nonetheless.”

The stunt was a protest against German car manufacturer Volkswagen, one of the sponsors of the European Championship, Greenpeace explained in a Twitter post.

“UEFA and its partners are fully committed to a sustainable Euro 2020 tournament and many initiatives have been implemented to offset carbon emissions,” said UEFA.

Greenpeace said they regretted any harm caused.

“This protest was never intended to disrupt the game or hurt people,” read a Twitter post on Greenpeace’s official German account.

“We hope that everyone is OK and that no one was seriously injured. Greenpeace actions are always peaceful and non-violent.”

“Unfortunately, not everything went according to plan.”

READ MORE: Climate activists rage as Germany opts for drawn-out coal exit