Car makers face more than a million claims in wake of ‘dieselgate’, judges told

Car manufacturers are facing more than 1.2 million compensation claims following allegations that “defeat devices” were fitted to diesel vehicles to get round emissions tests, judges in London have been told.

Four judges overseeing a High Court hearing on Friday heard Mercedes-Benz was facing more than 300,000 claims – and that manufacturers including Opel, Nissan, Jaguar Land Rover, Ford, Volvo, Hyundai, Toyota and Mazda were also among defendants in a “group” legal action.

Dame Victoria Sharp, Mrs Justice Cockerill, Mr Justice Constable and Senior Master Jeremy Cook are hearing legal arguments at a pre-trial hearing in Court 4 at the Royal Courts of Justice in central London.

Judges are considering issues relating to the timetabling of further hearings.

A barrister representing some claimants told judges that there were about 1,500 defendants once dealerships were included.

Oliver Campbell KC said Mercedes was facing about 360,00 claims and suggested the Mercedes case could be the “lead” case.

He said the Mercedes case involved a “wide range” of “defeat devices”.

Mr Campbell suggested that evidence considered would relate to a “sample” number of vehicles.

He said judges would also have to consider issues relating to the “confidentiality” of manufacturers’ documents.

Mercedes-Benz is facing around 360,000 claims, the court heard (Alamy/PA)
Mercedes-Benz is facing around 360,000 claims, the court heard (Alamy/PA)

The hearing is the latest stage in what lawyers have suggested will be the largest consumer group action brought before the English courts – and the latest legal development in the aftermath of the “dieselgate” emissions scandal.

In 2022, Volkswagen agreed to pay £193 million to more than 90,000 vehicle owners after it settled a group claim for compensation brought in the wake of emissions testing revelations about eight years ago.

A lawyer involved said a High Court hearing of this type, overseen by so many judges, was “unprecedented”

Martyn Day, who is based at law firm Leigh Day, which represents some claimants, said outside court: “This unprecedented High Court hearing illustrates the significance and scale of the vehicle emissions claims; the largest consumer group actions ever brought before the English courts.

“Together, the law firms bringing the claims represent more than a million people who purchased or leased a diesel vehicle believing it was more environmentally friendly than it really was.

“Leigh Day is committed to working collaboratively to bring the claims to a conclusion as quickly and efficiently as possible so that manufacturers are held to account and owners get the compensation they deserve.”

Lawyer Pete Gallagher, who is based at law firm Pogust Goodhead, which also represents claimants, added outside court: “It had been eight years since the emissions scandal first broke and it is high time the manufacturers were held to account for their wrongdoing.

“The vast scale of the cases speaks to the extent of the manufacturers’ misconduct and the very real grievance felt by car owners at being misled as to the true environmental impact of the cars they acquired.

“We urge the car manufacturers to do the right thing and reach swift settlements so that justice can be served without the need for the court and the parties to use up huge resources in bringing the cases to a conclusion.”

A Mercedes-Benz spokeswoman said outside court: “We continue to believe that the claims against Mercedes-Benz are without merit and will vigorously defend ourselves against them or any group action with the necessary legal means.”