Emissions scandal: VW showing 'utter contempt' for Londoners, says Khan

London mayor accuses Volkswagen of making the UK a laughing stock over refusal to pay £2.5m in compensation while it’s paid billions to US customers

Sadiq Khan has accused Volkswagen of showing “utter contempt” for Londoners after it refused to pay £2.5m compensation for its role in the dieselgate scandal.

The German car manufacturer has paid billions of dollars compensation in the US after admitting around 11m cars worldwide were fitted with “defeat devices” that switched the engine to a cleaner mode to improve results in tests.

The mayor of London wrote to VW last year imploring it to “fully compensate” the capital’s residents who were affected by the emissions scandal and reimburse Transport for London for £2.5m he claims it lost in congestion charge revenue because of the “defeat devices.”

However, it has emerged that at a meeting with VW earlier this month the car giant’s UK managing director Paul Willis made it “abundantly clear” it would not be meeting Khan’s compensation claims.

“I am disappointed by the utter contempt VW has shown for Londoners,” said Khan. “Their appalling lack of action since the ‘dieselgate’ scandal came to light must not be allowed to continue.”

He said the thousands of Londoners who had bought VW cars in good faith, had unwittingly contributed to London’s air pollution crisis which is estimated to kill 9,000 people every year. He called on VW to offer drivers a buyback scheme and said the £2.5m compensation would be used to introduce a “schools air quality programme” to tackle air pollution around schools.

“Unfortunately VW made it abundantly clear that they have no interest or intention of reimbursing Londoners or indeed any UK customers who bought these polluting vehicles. They are also in denial over their responsibility to help clean up London’s filthy air and mitigate the damage their cars have caused.”

VW has admitted around 11m cars were fitted with ‘defeat devices’ that switched the engines on to cleaner modes in tests.
VW has admitted around 11m cars were fitted with ‘defeat devices’ that switched the engines on to cleaner modes in tests. Photograph: Justin Lane/EPA

In the US VW is paying out $15bn (£12bn) compensation to drivers and Khan said its refusal to offer something similar in the UK was unacceptable.

“It is now nearly two years since the ‘dieselgate’ scandal and the government must stop dragging their feet and urgently intervene. VW is making a laughing stock of the UK – the government needs to demand a compensation package that equals the billions VW gave customers in America.”

It is estimated that more than 9,000 deaths occur each year in London due to illnesses caused by long-term exposure to air pollution. A Guardian investigation revealed more than 800 schools, nurseries and colleges in the capital are in areas where levels of nitrogen dioxide breach EU legal limits.

A spokesperson for VW said all of its vehicles which benefitted from the congestion charge greener vehicle discount “did so validly throughout the relevant period”.

It added there is “no basis on which it can be said that Transport for London has lost any sums as a result of the NOx issue.

“No sums are therefore due in compensation,” the spokesperson said.

However, the mayor’s office dismissed the suggestion that all VW vehicles met the green threshold legitimately. Khan called on the government and other regulatory authorities to intervene. “I am determined to stand up for those Londoners forced to breathe filthy air and who have been wholly misled by VW.”


Matthew Taylor

The GuardianTramp

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