Investors to be allowed to sue Volkswagen over emission row

German car makers now required to disclose engine software

Volkswagen investors are to be allowed to sue the carmaker for almost €4m in damages in the wake of Volkswagen's admission last year that it used "defeat device" software in 11 million cars that allowed it to give false results in tests for nitrogen oxide emissions.

The Braunschweig District Court said in a statement (link in German) that it had registered 170 lawsuits against Volkswagen from mostly private investors. One complaint was signed by 277 investors from both Germany and abroad, it said.

The court will use Germany's capital markets law on misrepresentation of capital market data, and try a single case which will then be applied to all similar cases, it said.

Car manufacturers in Germany will now be required to make disclosures of their engine software to regulators under plans announced by the country's transport minister in December.

The disclosure of engine software will be required as part of a new "authorisation procedure" car manufacturers will need to engage with in Germany, the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure told in a statement.

In June, Germany called on the EU to improve rules on vehicle emission testing to cover the range of adaptations to emissions control systems used by vehicle manufacturers.

While no other manufacturer was using a similar system to Volkswagen's, "it became clear that for many vehicle types, real driving emissions are significantly higher than on the dynamometer", Germany told the European Transport Council.

Manufacturers adapt emissions control systems to driving and environmental conditions in different ways, but primarily based on a temperature window outside of which the emissions reduction is reduced. This is allowed legally if it is done to protect the engine, but there are doubts over whether this is the case for all the vehicles, and legislation is being interpreted in different ways, the note said.

Legislation should therefore state that defeat devices may only be used if they are needed to protect the engine even when using "the best available technology", according to the note.

Copyright © 2016, is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

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