Diesel emissions claims – the ultimate guide

    In 2015, German car manufacturer Volkswagen admitted having installed emissions-cheating devices in many of their diesel models – which fooled testers into believing that their vehicles were low-polluting and safe for sale in the UK and abroad.

    When this was uncovered, and the vehicles were retested – they were then found to be extremely polluting. It subsequently transpired that Volkswagen was not the only brand of carmaker to have used this prohibited software.

    In the aftermath of the scandal, now known as ‘dieselgate’, registered owners of diesel cars and vans made between 2007 and 2018 may be eligible to join a group legal claim. Law firms behind the claim allege that these diesel vehicles were mis-sold because they produced more harmful nitrogen oxide than advertised. Although far from certain, those who can prove they were mis-sold could be due £1,000s of pounds. Whether you bought new or used, outright or on finance, if you think you may apply it is worth checking if you are eligible, and if dieselgate has you wanting to move on from a diesel you can sell your car here.

    what is the diesel emissions scandal?
    Many car manufacturers have been accused of bypassing emissions standards during testing.

    What is the diesel emissions scandal?
    Which cars are affected by dieselgate?
    Is my diesel claim legitimate?
    Can you claim for diesel emissions yourself?
    How long does a diesel emissions claim take?
    How much compensation can I get for diesel emissions claims?

    What is the diesel emissions scandal?

    All new vehicles are subject to having pollution tests carried out on them before being approved for sale. In 2014, testers discovered that several car makers had installed software in their vehicles that manipulated these tests. This has now become known as the ‘Diesel Emissions Scandal’; or, popularly, as ‘Dieselgate’. 

    This software reputedly ‘recognised’ the conditions of the standardised testing and kicked in when it was taking place – adjusting the car engine’s output to emit fewer pollutants. When the cars were tested without the software installed, in real-world driving conditions, many of the cars were discovered to emit much higher-than-normal levels of pollution.

    The scandal was uncovered when the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) discovered discrepancies between European and US models of vehicles. This was followed by independent tests being carried out by the German car company ADAC – which proved that, under normal driving conditions, many diesel vehicles coming to market – including the Volvo S60, Renault’s Espace Energy, and the Jeep Renegade ­– actually exceeded legal European emission limits for nitrogen oxide (NOx) by more than 10 times.

    The many car makers that used deceptive software were heavily criticised when the deception was uncovered, as were the original testers for creating legal checks that could be so easily manipulated. Consequently, much more stringent pollution tests came into force in 2017. However, many automotive companies lobbied to delay the new test due to the high cost of meeting stricter environmental controls.

    In 2018, Conservative Internal Market spokesman Daniel Dalton – who pushed the new testing through the European Parliament – described the previous tests as: “at best patchy and at worst ineffective.” Whereas the new tests were claimed to have introduced “a strong, transparent system to ensure cars are safe and meet emissions standards”.

    Which cars are affected by dieselgate?
    Before ‘dieselgate’, Diesel engines were said to be more environmentally friendly over long distances

    Which cars are affected by dieselgate?

    Volkswagen was the first car maker to be discovered to have intentionally programmed Turbocharged Direct Injection (TDI) diesel engines to activate emissions controls only during emissions testing. Indeed, the scandal was originally known as the ‘Volkswagen Emissions Scandal’

    In the 2.0-litre diesel vehicle range, the following VW models have been installed with the software programmed to ‘defeat’ proper pollution testing.

    • Jetta (2009 – 2015)
    • Jetta Sportwagen (2009 – 2014)
    • Beetle (2013 – 2015)
    • Beetle Convertible (2013 – 2015)
    • Audi A3 (2010 – 2015)
    • Golf (2010 – 2015)
    • Golf Sportwagen (2015)
    • Passat (2012 – 2015)

    The 3.0-litre Volkswagen models installed with so-called ‘defeat devices’ are as follows:

    • Volkswagen Touareg (2009 – 2016)
    • Porsche Cayenne (2013 – 2016)
    • Audi A6 Quattro (2014 – 2016)
    • Audi A7 Quattro (MY 2014 – 2016)
    • Audi A8 (2014 – 2016)
    • Audi A8L (2014 – 2016)
    • Audi Q5 (2014 – 2016)

    In January 2017, VW pleaded guilty to the emissions scandal and agreed to pay $4.3 billion in penalties.

    A 2017 investigation into Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) discovered that more than 100,000 diesel SUVs and trucks – including the Dodge Ram 1500 and the Jeep Grand Cherokee models, had software that allowed them to exceed NOx pollution limits, undetected by the usual testing methods. In 2019, Fiat Chrysler recalled and repaired approximately 100,000 vehicles that had been equipped with prohibited defeat devices. Consequently, the company was forced to pay legal fines and compensation to consumers of around $800 million. The following year, Fiat Chrysler was forced to pay a £5 billion class-action lawsuit in the UK, when over half a million Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Jeep, Iveco and Suzuki vehicles were discovered to have defeat devices installed.

    Renault was investigated by French authorities in 2015 and it was concluded that they had installed in some models a ‘fraudulent device’ which specifically modifies the functioning of the engine to reduce emissions of NOx (nitrogen oxides) in conditions specific to the regulatory tests. This reportedly affected 900,000 Renault vehicles – and, when tested properly, it was claimed that the Renault Captur and Clio IV exceeded the threshold for carbon dioxide emissions by 377% and 305%, respectively.

    In 2019, Daimler recalled 60,000 Mercedes-Benz GLK 220 SUV models in Germany, produced between 2012 and 2015. These cars were fitted with software aimed at distorting emissions tests. Germany’s vehicle agency, The Federal Motor Transport Authority, is looking to extend investigations of defeat devices reportedly being used in Daimler’s C-Class and E-Class OM642 and OM651 engines.

    In 2019, it was discovered that many Porsche vehicles equipped with Audi diesel engines of the Euro 5 and Euro 6 emission standards exceeded the limit values for nitrogen oxides (NOx) many times over. The Porsche Panamera equipped with the VW-EA897 engine, made by Audi, exhibited an 8.3-fold limit violation. The Porsche Cayenne, fitted with the EA897evo engine (Euro 6), were found to have exceeded the applicable limit of 80 mg/km NOx in normal mode by 3.6 or 4.2 times.

    In 2018, BMW recalled 11,700 diesel cars which had ‘incorrect’ emissions software installed. Though the company has denied these were defeat devices.

    In the UK, anyone who purchased a new or second-hand diesel vehicle from the Audi, Chrysler, BMW, Citroën, Fiat, Ford, Hyundai, Jaguar, Kia, Land Rover, Mini, Mercedes, Nissan, Peugeot, Porsche, Renault, SEAT, Skoda, Vauxhall, Volkswagen or Volvo brands between the crucial 2007-2018 period is urged to make a compensation claim.

    As a result of the diesel emissions scandal new, more stringent, emissions regulations were introduced.

    Is my diesel claim legitimate?

    Hundreds of thousands of diesel vehicles have potentially been caught up in the ‘Dieselgate’ scandal – and, as a result, many drivers unwittingly bought and used vehicles that were producing emissions that significantly exceeded laws specifically put in place to protect the public and the environment.

    Several car manufacturers have already been investigated over the diesel emissions scandal and many are still being investigated to see if there is any evidence that they had also fitted defeat devices in their vehicles to cheat emissions tests during the crucial 2007-2018 period.

    In the UK, if you purchased a new or used diesel vehicle from the Audi, Chrysler, BMW, Citroën, Fiat, Ford, Hyundai, Jaguar, Kia, Land Rover, Mini, Mercedes, Nissan, Peugeot, Porsche, Renault, SEAT, Skoda, Vauxhall, Volkswagen, or Volvo brands, that was first registered between 2007 and 2018, you could be in line for compensation.

    There are websites available where you can quickly check if you have been deliberately misled over the car’s environmental performance and if you are eligible for compensation. This is worth doing because many of the offending car manufacturers are now legally obliged to pay out millions in compensation to drivers. However, if you think you might be eligible, the best advice is to approach one of the UK law firms that are handling claims for consumers.

    is my diesel claim legitimate?
    Diesel owners of many popular brands may be entitled to compensation.

    Can you claim for diesel emissions yourself?

    It is extremely unwise for individuals to take on one of the big car manufacturers by themselves – as the high legal fees would most likely outweigh the payout. However, several UK law firms are now taking legal action on behalf of drivers – so, if you think you are eligible for compensation, it would be a good idea to contact one of these firms.

    You will need to choose the correct law firm to represent you – as some companies will only be dealing with certain car brands. Initially, most of these law firms will ask you to fill in a claims form, which will state which make and model of your car and how you’ve been personally affected by the diesel emissions scandal.  

    Law firmManufacturers
    Hagens Berman UKMercedes
    Keller Postman UKAudi, Mercedes, Seat, Skoda, VW & Vauxhall
    Leigh DayAudi, Citroen, Nissan, Peugeot, Porsche, Renault, Seat, Skoda, Vauxhall, Mercedes, BMW, Ford, Jaguar, Land Rover, Mini, VW & Volvo
    Milberg LondonAudi, Mercedes, Seat, Skoda, VW & Vauxhall
    PGMBMAudi, BMW, Citroen, Ford, Jaguar, Land Rover, Mercedes, Nissan, Peugeot, Renault, Skoda, Vauxhall, VW
    Slater and GordonMercedes & Vauxhall

    Any claim you make with these legal firms will be made on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis – so that the company’s legal team will only take a cut if you successfully receive compensation.

    If you believe you were misled when buying a car or van within the specified timeframe, you can make a claim – even if you have since sold or scrapped it.

    For example, if your decision to buy the vehicle in question was influenced by how it was sold to you – such as paying a premium for what you thought was a more environmentally-friendly car or van ­– without knowledge of the defeat device installed. 

    Legal firms may be willing to represent you if:

    • You either leased or financed the vehicle
    • You acquired it as new or used
    • You no longer possess the vehicle
    • You intend to file a claim for a company car (provided the contract was in your name)

    However, you will not be considered for a claim if you bought the vehicle outside of the UK.

    If you decide you don’t want to go ahead with a claim, most legal firms offer a 14-day ‘cooling-off period’– so, you can cancel during this window. However, some companies will charge you the legal costs if you withdraw after the two-week cooling-off period – so, it’s best to find this out before you commit to anything.

    How long does a diesel emissions claim take?

    It can depend on the legal firm you use and how strong your compensation claim is.

    If you submit a claim with a law firm, you will typically get a response from the car manufacturer within four weeks of your claim going through. In most cases, car manufacturers will not want to go to court and will try and settle the claim quickly – and with as little fuss as possible – outside of court.

    How much compensation can I get for diesel emissions claims?

    Unfortunately, there is not a fixed sum for the compensation a claimant may receive – nor is it guaranteed. However, there is some information available to the public on the current state of the cases against the car manufacturers. In the UK there are six legal firms representing consumers in the diesel emissions scandal, they are Hagens Berman UK, Keller Lenkner UK, Leigh Day, Milberg London, PGMBM and Slater & Gordon. These firms are representing tens, if not hundreds of thousands of claimants. It is important to be aware that these firms are handling the cases against specific brands and not necessarily all of them.

    can you claim diesel emissions yourself?
    Volkswagen were the first manufacturer to be accused in the diesel emissions scandal.

    In May 2022 The VW group, which also owns Audi, Seat and Skoda settled out of court for £193 million. Due to the terms of the agreement the deducted fees and costs have not been published so the payouts for individual claimants is still unknown. The VW group also made an undisclosed contribution to the claimants legal fees. The VW group still maintains that this settlement is not an admission of liability.

    So far the case against VW is the only one to reach an out of court settlement. However, it is not too late to make a claim if you believe you are eligible owner of an Audi, Seat, Skoda or VW vehicle. The law firms listed above are still urging diesel vehicle owners, regardless of manufacturer, to register their interest.

    Selling your car?

    Read about everything you need to know about how to sell your car with more guides here. There’s a lot to learn as Clean Air Zones and emissions standards in the UK change in the run-up to 2035.