In doing so, Volkswagen “knowingly and systematically misled” authorities for several years “with an eye on profitability,” judge Stephan Seiters said.
Volkswagen will now propose out-of-court settlements to settle “a large part of the 60,000 individual cases in progress,” the group said in a statement.
Judges of the German Federal Court (BGH) ruled that the purchase of a car equipped with a rigged engine constituted damage in itself, even if, as Volkswagen argued, the vehicle is still usable.
This first significant Dieselgate ruling against VW in Germany concerned Herbert Gilbert, a 65-year-old pensioner who bought a second-hand Volkswagen Sharan diesel in 2014, one of the 11 million vehicles in which Volkswagen admitted that a rigged software had been placed.
By returning his vehicle to Volkswagen, the pensioner is entitled to a refund, the court ruled, but this “must take into account” the use of the vehicle and therefore its loss in value over time, thus excluding a full refund of the purchase price.
The decision comes after the end in April of an unprecedented lawsuit in Germany, similar to a US-style class action, involving hundreds of thousands of claimants.
Volkswagen will pay at least €750 million to compensate 235,000 customers under an out-of-court settlement. The scandal has already cost VW more than €30 billion.