Sunday 11 December 2016

What can you do if your car is caught up in the emissions cheating scandal?

Published 11/10/2015 | 02:30

Only time will tell if Volkswagen’s brand has suffered long- term damage from installing the 'cheat devices'
Only time will tell if Volkswagen’s brand has suffered long- term damage from installing the 'cheat devices'

The Volkswagen (VW) saga - which is expected to see more than 100,000 Irish cars being recalled - has sparked fears that other car manufacturers may have manipulated emissions tests.

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It's about three weeks since the VW scandal first broke in the US, when researchers discovered that a 'cheat device' in software was deceiving testers into thinking the cars were much greener than they were.

After a house, a car is typically one of the most expensive things you'll buy. VW Passats with diesel engines which were sold roughly between 2009 and 2014 are amongst the models affected by the VW scandal. A new VW Passat could cost as much as €48,000, depending on the model. You can expect to pay at least €28,000 for the new saloon version of the Passat.

So what are your rights if you buy a new car and where do you stand if you own a car that's caught up in the VW saga - or indeed if more car manufacturers come out of the wordwork?

"First and foremost, consumers have the right to receive the car with the specifications promised in the contract," said a spokesman for the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC). "Any repair work or alterations needed to accomplish conformity with the contract and to meet standards set out in marketing material or required under law, must be free of charge for consumers.

"Depending on the law of the member state, consumers may be entitled to get compensated for the decreased vehicle (resale) value or have the contract rescinded.

"On top of that, consumers are potentially entitled to seek financial compensation for damages, including increased cost for fuel and taxes - or costs associated with future repair, caused by or related to the 'defeat devices' installed in vehicles."

When you buy a car from a garage or dealership, you are protected by consumer legislation.

"So you are entitled to expect that the car will be of satisfactory quality (bearing in mind the age and history of the vehicle), as described, fit for the purpose intended and roadworthy," said Caroline Curneen, assistant legal adviser with the consumer watchdog, ECC Ireland.

"In addition, it is an offence for a professional seller to withhold or provide misleading information about any, material information regarding the main characteristics of a car - or its history."

Should you believe that these statutory rights have been infringed, you must seek redress from the professional seller of the car - not the manufacturer, advised Ms Curneen.

However, you can usually seek redress from a manufacturer if your car came with a warranty. All new cars are sold with a manufacturer's warranty and these should cover you for any unexpected faults or breakdowns for a set time.

Should there be a recall, as is the case with VW, the manufacturer will try to contact you and arrange for a repair of the defective part free of charge.

Earlier this week, the VW Group's new ceo, Matthias Müller, said that all the cars caught up in the VW scandal are technically safe and roadworthy.

"At no time was the safety of our customers compromised," Mr Muller told employees at VW's headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany. "And above all: all Euro 6 diesel vehicles comply with legal specifications and environmental requirements."

The new Volkswagens on sale in dealers today should comply with new EU rules known as Euro 6 - and therefore be clear of the cheat software, according to Padraic Deane, managing editor of Automotive Publications. This means there is no financial reason to be concerned about buying a new VW car today - or to try to get your deposit back, advised Mr Deane. Before you go ahead with your purchase however, check that the car is Euro 6 compliant.

It is unclear whether or not Irish owners of the 100,000 cars affected by the VW recall will face higher motor tax bills.

The amount of motor tax you pay in Ireland is based on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions - as long as your car has been registered since July 2008.

It was nitrogen oxide (NOx), a harmful air pollutant, which the emissions tests in the US were checking for - when researchers uncovered the cheat VW device.

VW has not said yet whether there will be an impact on CO2 emission figures when the cheat device is removed.

The other concern for VW drivers is whether or not the resale value of their car could be damaged by the scandal.

VW drivers could get hit by a 'blip' in diesel prices if they decide to trade their car in this January, according to Mr Deane.

"Maybe all diesels will have their bib dirtied a bit by this saga but I think this will pass," said Mr Deane.

Let's wait and see.

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