In the pre-trial hearing, Slater and Gordon will argue that the English high court is bound by a finding by the KBA, the German type approval body, that Volkswagen’s software includes a defeat device. Volkswagen will counter that it believes the “switching function” between test and road modes “used in the UK and the EU is legal”. 

If Slater and Gordon argues this point successfully, it then has to establish ‘causation’ and prove a link between damage or harm to the car and the defeat device software. It may be more difficult to convince the judge of this. 

Volkswagen is firm that “our UK customers have not suffered any loss or damage as a result of the NOx issue. The affected vehicles are safe and roadworthy and perform as advertised.” 

Slater and Gordon argues that the cars were sold “deceitfully” and could not be lawfully sold, but once the Dieselgate scandal was exposed and Volkswagen recalled cars for a technical fix, owners suffered poorer mpg, CO2 and drivability. 

The headline-grabbing final point will be the size of any multimillion-pound payout, based on the losses suffered by motorists. Slater and Gordon is aiming to prove that owners have lost out on residual value owing to the defeat device and in terms of issues caused by the fix. 

“Our clients tell us the fix has made vehicles less fuel efficient, has impacted performance and resulted in instances of vehicles going into limp-home mode in dangerous circumstances,” said Slater and Gordon. 

Finally, it is pushing for “exemplary damages” to punish Volkswagen for its alleged deceit. 

Volkswagen, of course, will attempt to demonstrate evidence to the contrary – that there has been no adverse impact on residual value, CO2, mpg or engine performance. And it stresses that the “fix” resolved “the vast majority of complaints to our customers’ satisfaction”. 

If it looks as though the damages might fall short of expectations and won’t cover the legal costs, the case could be settled out of court. 

More twists and turns are to be expected as the case meanders its way into court later this year, but affected motorists and Volkswagen can at least look forward to the protracted process finally being resolved by the end of 2020.

How will damages be decided?

Behind the scenes, Volkswagen is understood to have undertaken a research project into the effects on residual values – which is where the biggest losses might be crystallised.