Federal Court of Justice in Karlsruhe: Initially controversial discussions
Photo: imago images / Nicolaj Zownir
If you want to exchange a new vehicle affected by the diesel scandal, you have to register your claim within two years of the conclusion of the contract - otherwise you will receive nothing after a decision by the Federal Court of Justice (BGH). The judges set a clear time limit for the subsequent delivery on Wednesday in Karlsruhe, which has not existed before. A buyer's lawyer spoke of a "shock" after the verdict. (Az. VIII ZR 254/20)
Several buyers had asked for new cars as replacements for their VW vehicles, some of which were much older.
Some of the original models were no longer produced by then.
If these requirements were met, the dealers would get worn-out cars and would have to provide completely new vehicles without compensation, explained the presiding judge, Karin Milger.
That is not in the sense of a fair weighing of the interests of both sides.
Different decisions of the lower courts
The lower courts had decided differently: sometimes they granted customers the right to a replacement for their new car - if in doubt, a newer model. In other cases, they thought it was more proportionate and sufficient to fix the problems in the affected engines with a software update worth around 100 euros. None of the sellers had claimed any statute of limitations. Depending on the case, the BGH either rejected revisions or confirmed the judgments. A procedure also has to be renegotiated.
Judge Milger, who chaired her last trial before retirement on Wednesday, had said at the beginning that, from the point of view of the eighth civil senate, the "legal music" seemed to be playing when the car model was changed. In one case there was even a leap across a generation: the contract referred to a Golf VI that VW has long since stopped building. The current Golf is the VIII. After a "thoroughly controversial" preparation by the Senate, the main question was whether there should be any time limits.
Both sides had refused to do this during the negotiation. Lawyer Thomas Winter, who represented several dealers at the same time, argued with the purchase object itself: The purchase of a certain type of car was originally contractually regulated. Successor models differ in terms of dimensions, equipment, horsepower or similar points and could therefore not be equivalent. He compared it with wine: a certain variety from a certain growing area from one vintage cannot be replaced by a bottle from another year.
His colleague Reiner Hall, who represents VW, added that if you order a newer model, you won't take an older one. So these are just not equivalent. He also addressed feared deficiencies that could arise from an update of the software. These are not proven - so that is not a reason for exclusion. The Cologne Higher Regional Court had listed such possible consequential damage in the lower instance and accepted a new car as the only replacement.
The buyers' lawyers, on the other hand, stated that there should be no time limits for the simple reason that customers would not have found out about the problem with emissions from the EA189 engine until the diesel scandal broke out.
"Until 2015 everything was hidden under a thick blanket," said Richard Lindner.
His colleague Siegfried Mennemeyer found even clearer words when asked why the demand for a replacement car was not made until years after the purchase: "Because it was fraudulently concealed beforehand."
mik / dpa