In what is believed to be a world-first since the global Dieselgate emissions scandal began, the Federal Court has ordered that vehicle giant Volkswagen and its subsidiaries Audi and Skoda give sworn testimony answering why dual-mode software was installed in their diesel vehicles.
After treating the Australian jurisdiction as a “backwater”, the vehicle manufacturers have now been ordered to explain – under oath – what difference, if any, exists between the Australian and US vehicle software and why the dual-mode software was installed in the first place.
The Federal Court’s Justice Lindsay Foster made the orders this week, in the consumer class actions brought on behalf of around 100,000 affected Australian motorists.
“The interrogatory (interrogatory one) calls for a succinct and plain answer to a question which goes to the heart of the present proceedings,” Justice Foster wrote 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.”
In line with the court order, the interrogatories have been issued to the manufacturers today (Friday 15 September), with a response to be filed with the Court by 16 October, ahead of a first stage trial of the class actions and the ACCC’s claims, scheduled for 30 October this year.
Jason Geisker, class action lawyer leading the Maurice Blackburn claims, believes this is the first time these vehicle manufacturers have been directed to answer questions under oath that are central to the ongoing diesel emissions scandal.
“I think these are precisely the sorts of questions that our clients want answers to and that may be why they are precisely the types of questions that Volkswagen would not want to answer,” Mr Geisker said.
“Fortunately, affected Australian motorists have access to a very effective class action legal system in Australia. Our system provides victims of mass wrongs, such as the 100,000 locally affected diesel motorists, with a potent way of holding wrongdoing manufacturers to account.
“It is astonishing that these companies which pride themselves on truth in engineering could work so extensively, over such a long period, to develop and implement deceptive software so as to bolster sales of overly polluting diesel vehicles rather developing real ways of genuinely reducing dangerous diesel emissions. Now affected motorists are about to find out the real story.”