Millions of diesel drivers could be in line for compensation over potentially mis-sold vehicles, lawyers have warned.

Drivers who purchased vehicles that were more polluting than they were led to believe could be owed £12,000 each, experts suggest.

It’s part of a legal battle being raised against several of the world’s biggest car manufacturers including Volkswagen and Mercedes., following the diesel gate scandal.

One legal industry figure says that 9.6million vehicles might be affected and that the average payout could be £12,000.

If one in three owners claim and the cases are successful, the total payout could match the scale of the PPI scandal, which cost banks £38billion.

The claims stem from 2015 when Volkswagen was found to have installed devices which could 'cheat emissions testing'.
The claims stem from 2015 when Volkswagen was found to have installed devices which could 'cheat emissions testing'.

Law law firm Leigh Day is involved in court action against Volkswagen and Mercedes but is investigating claims against Audi, Citroën, Jaguar, Land Rover, Nissan, Renault, Peugeot, Porsche, Seat, Skoda and Vauxhall.

Other firms are looking at taking action against BMW, Fiat, Ford, Jeep, Alfa Romeo, Mitsubishi and Suzuki. All car makers deny the allegations.

More than a dozen legal firms are competing to attract drivers. Leigh Day, Slater & Gordon and PGMBM already have nearly 400,000 motorists signed up between them and say that the numbers are growing “rapidly”.

The drive for compensation stems from the scandal that began in 2015 when Volkswagen was found to have installed a “defeat device” in cars to cheat emissions testing.

Last year, Daimler, which owns Mercedes-Benz, agreed to pay £1.2billion to resolve US government claims that it designed diesel vehicles to cheat pollution tests.

The EU also raided the offices of Fiat-Chrysler over claims some engines produced illegal levels of emissions.

The Vauxhall Pay Up campaign says it has separately also signed-up more than 60,000 claimants for litigation. It claims that ‘cheat’ devices were installed in 600,000 vehicles.

Lawyers for Milberg London LLP which is representing the case, said the total value of the claim currently stands at over £150million.

They argue the cars – which include the Astra, Corsa and Zafira – were worth less than the drivers paid for them because they promised a combination of environmental impact and driving performance that could never be replicated under ‘real’ driving conditions.

The cheat software Vauxhall is alleged to have used is similar to the ‘defeat’ code deployed by Volkswagen in the ‘dieselgate’ scandal.

Lawyers say that these defeat devices are banned under UK and EU law, and that Vauxhall owners were potentially mis-sold or leased cars that were more polluting than the law allows, pumping harmful substances like nitrous oxide (NOx) into the atmosphere.

The Scottish Government are cracking down on air-polluting diesel cars

Edward Cardington, Partner at Milberg London LLP, and lead lawyer for the Vauxhall Pay Up Campaign, said: “We know there are still hundreds of thousands of affected drivers out there who bought a Vauxhall between 2009 and 2019 that could be due compensation.”

A group of law firms won the first stage of proceedings against Volkswagen last year when the High Court ruled last year that it had installed a “defeat device”.

Using a group litigation order, they are now looking to argue that owners lost out financially. The case is due to be heard in January 2023. Volkswagen has denied that its customers lost out.

The law firms argue that owners should be compensated for the full cost of their vehicles, but believe payouts of £10,000 to £12,000 per vehicle are realistic.

Each firm is proceeding on a “no win, no fee” basis but will take a cut of about a third of any payouts if successful.

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