Just how damaging was the emissions cheating scandal?


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Keller Lenkner UK is holding Vauxhall, Mercedes-Benz, and the Volkswagen Group* to account for cheating emissions regulations, harming the environment, and deceiving their customers. 

Here is a quick summary of this case.

*We are no longer accepting clients to our VW action.


In September 2015, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that Volkswagen Group had sold diesel cars in America with software that could detect when a vehicle was being tested and activate equipment that reduced emissions. But the software turned the equipment down, and sometimes completely off, during real-world driving conditions, increasing nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions far above legal limits.

What started in the US spread to many other countries. And Volkswagen was not alone when it came to fitting vehicles with “defeat devices”. The scandal became a global issue involving several industry giants, including Daimler AG (the parent company of Mercedes-Benz) and Vauxhall. Millions of diesel vehicles have been recalled, and “dieselgate” is now one of the biggest corporate scandals in history.

Not just defeat devices

In a separate case, leading car manufacturers have also been found guilty of illegally colluding to use emissions technology that meets the bare minimum legal standards to thwart competition.

In July 2021, the European Commission published findings that Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz were guilty of breaking EU antitrust rules by conspiring to prevent the deployment of clean emissions technology. Volkswagen and BMW have been fined a total of €875 million for breaking EU rules. But for Daimler’s assistance with the Commission’s investigation, it would also have been fined €727 million.

The impact of the emissions cheating scandal

Because of cheat devices, dangerously high levels of NOx were emitted into the atmosphere by affected vehicles. The resulting negative impact on human health and the environment is considerable.

The impact on human health

NOx fumes are associated with adverse human health effects. It contributes to asthma, bronchitis, and emphysema.

NOx has both direct and indirect consequences on human health. Air pollution:

  • Causes more deaths globally than smoking. [1]
  • Kills 64,000 a year in the UK and is responsible for an estimated 8.8 million early deaths worldwide
  • Estimates show a reduction in life expectancy in Europe by almost three years.
  • Exceeds malaria as a global cause of premature death by a factor of 19; it exceeds violence by a factor of 16, HIV [and] AIDS by a factor of 9, alcohol by a factor of 45, and drug abuse by a factor of 60.[2]

Between 40-80% of air-pollution related deaths are due to cardiovascular diseases (CVD), such as heart attacks and strokes. Other fatal conditions linked to air pollution and long-term exposure to nitrogen oxides include cancer, diabetes, chronic lung disease, and severe asthma. Poisonous diesel fumes can also lead to breathing difficulties, headaches, eye inflammation, and even dental problems.

While the full cost is yet unknown, it is estimated that VW’s cheating alone will lead to some 1,200 premature deaths. The total number of “life-years lost” is said to be 13,000, and there has been a €1.9 billion price tag attached to those life-years[3].

The impact on the environment

NOx emissions impact urban air quality, with fumes contributing to acid rain and suffocating smog. So too much in our environment is extremely dangerous.

According to one report[4]:

  • Diesel vehicles with defeat devices can create extra temperature impacts over time {depending on driving conditions}.
  • The climatic advantage of “clean diesel” can disappear if the vehicles have defeat devices.

Dr Katsumasa Tanaka from the National Institute for Environmental Studies in Japan, the lead author of this study, described the potential impact on the environment as “significant”.

Dieselgate could also have an impact on farming and the other essential ecosystems we all rely on – this could harm both plants and animals.

The impact on people who bought affected vehicles

The affected vehicles are likely worth less than the drivers paid for them. Drivers may also have experienced higher fuel bills and maintenance costs.

However, while manufacturers have collectively paid billions to settle class action claims and fines in other countries, this is not the case in England and Wales.

At Keller Lenkner UK, we believe that car owners and lessors in England & Wales deserve compensation too, and we are holding the guilty car manufacturers to account. You may qualify for a no-win, no-fee claim if you purchased or leased an affected Volkswagen*, Vauxhall or Mercedes-Benz diesel vehicle.

Experts in group litigation and multi-claimant actions against large, well-funded corporations, we have everything it takes to win when it comes to getting justice for our clients.


*We are no longer accepting clients to our VW action.

In February 2024, our firm changed its name from Keller Postman UK to KP Law.

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