Domestic Volkswagen buyers target German HQ

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Domestic Volkswagen buyers target German HQ

Korean Volkswagen owners have expanded their pursuit of compensation from the German automaker by filing a lawsuit in the United States, ground zero of the emissions test rigging scandal.

Volkswagen owners in Korea have already filed a lawsuit against the automaker’s Seoul office. Now they plan to launch suits in Los Angeles against Volkswagen’s German headquarters. The plaintiffs are filing in Los Angeles, as California has some of the strictest anti-pollution laws in the world.

“Many consumers in the world are preparing lawsuits in the U.S. as well in order to seek punitive damages,” said attorney Ha Jong-sun, who is filing the suits.

In the past two weeks, Barun Law has filed lawsuits against the carmaker from 40 Volkswagen and Audi owners. The law firm said on Tuesday that 226 more people - 202 cash buyers and 24 leasers - have joined the case and filed a complaint to the Seoul Central District Court. The new plaintiffs own cars equipped with 2.0 TDI, 1.6 TDI or 1.2 TDU diesel engines.

“Another complaint will be filed on Oct. 20 with about 500 new plaintiffs,” said Ha, an attorney at Barun who is licensed to practice law in both Korea and the United States. “By collecting as many plaintiffs as we can, we will keep pressing the Volkswagen Group.”

Ha added that plaintiffs will file a lawsuit in a federal district court in Los Angeles against the Volkswagen Group headquarters, as some of the Passat sedans purchased in Korea were produced in the automaker’s Tennessee plant.

“The strategy will be similar to the case that is going on in Seoul,” Ha said. “We will demand the Volkswagen Group refund the money that the plaintiffs paid and will also seek compensation in punitive damages. We currently have 51 Passat owners and will collect more prior to bringing the case to the United States.

“Through the punitive damage system, consumers could receive three to 10 times more compensation than the actual amount of damage. We decided to take this action since we worried that the headquarters might not try its best to compensate Korean consumers, unlike customers in the United States.”

Korean consumers are seeking a refund of the car’s cost plus compensation of 30 million won ($26,000).

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Environment, which is running emissions tests on “dirty diesel” cars, said in a briefing at Sejong City that Volkswagen Korea has said it will not sell 466 units of Euro 5 cars in its inventory. Regarding a possible recall, the ministry said the company has not submitted a specific schedule or plan yet.

The ministry said the problematic Euro 5 used a Lean NOx Trap worth about 400,000 won as an emissions reduction device for 2,000 cc models. For models 3,000 cc or higher, the company used a Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) worth about 2 million won. The cars using SCR passed emissions tests.

“There are many opinions on the company’s selection, but it looks like it might have been tough for them to install an expensive device for low-price cars,” said Hong Dong-gon, a ministry spokesman. “It is also tough work to install a bigger-size device on small cars.” ?

BY KWON SANG-SOO [kwon.sangsoo@joongang.co.kr]

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