The Federal Court of Australia has ordered Volkswagen to address under sworn testimony why its diesel cars have emission tampering software, in what's being described as a "world first".
Justice Lindsay Foster ordered Volkswagen, Audi and Skoda to testify why
the software behind "dieselgate" is being used in their vehicles, and to
reveal what's different about the software – if anything – in the cars sold in Australia compared to those in the United States.
"The interrogatory calls for a succinct and plain answer to a question
which goes to the heart of the present proceedings," wrote Justice Foster
in his judgment.
"It seems to me that it would be a relevant matter for the court to know
why it was that the software was developed and installed in the EA189
diesel engine found in vehicles sold in Australia."
All three cases brought against Volkswagen – by Maurice Blackburn Lawyers,
Bannister Law and the ACCC – are being managed before the same court at
the same time. Costs are being divvied up between the plaintiffs and Volkswagen
as the case progresses.
The car maker has been involved in legal action all around the world;
Volkswagen pleaded guilty to emission tampering before the US Department of
Justice in January 2017, and stood before the UK parliamentary committee as
early as 2015, to name two examples.
But Jason Geisker, the lawyer leading the Maurice Blackburn class action,
believes this is the first time Volkswagen has had to directly answer
questions pertaining to its dual-software mode while under oath and before
"I think these are precisely the sorts of questions that our clients want
answers to," he says. "Fortunately, our [legal] system provides victims of
mass wrongs ... with a potent way of holding wrongdoing manufacturers to
The class actions cover the 99,672 diesel Volkswagens, Audi and Skoda
vehicles that are being recalled in Australia. CHOICE understands
approximately 17,000 owners are being represented by Maurice Blackburn and
2000 by Bannister Law, although the remaining owners of affected cars will
still be represented by the class actions unless they actively opt-out.
Volkswagen, Audi and Skoda have to provide a response before the court by
16 October. This is ahead of a first stage trial of the class actions and
the ACCC's claims, which is scheduled for 30 October 2017.