Bosch, Germany’s four largest automakers and parts supplier, knowingly broke rules in developing some sort of emissions software, an environmental activist group said Thursday, in a years-long legal battle that could open the door to a new wave of lawsuits.
Audi, Volkswagen, Daimler – now Mercedes-Benz – and BMW tasked Bosch with developing technology that they knew from the start was in breach of regulatory compliance, Environmental Action Germany (DUH) said at a press conference, citing internal industry documents leaked to the company this summer. 2006 to 2015.
Bosch and Volkswagen spokesmen both said the companies were aware of the documents and had worked closely with investigators. A spokesman for BMW dismissed all allegations of misconduct, while Mercedes was not immediately available for comment.
Prosecutors in Stuttgart, who received the documents from DUH, said they were already aware of their contents and would not investigate further.
But the NGO will also share the documents with an administrative court in Schleswig, northern Germany, which will hear a lawsuit filed by the DUH over 119 diesel car models in February 2023 to determine whether temperature-based software is legal.
“The European Court of Justice has confirmed with pleasant clarity: it is not so,” said DUH chief Juergen Resch, adding that he expected the German court to follow this ruling.
The software was banned by an EU high court last week for restricting the use of emission reduction technology outside a certain temperature window.
But Volkswagen insists the temperature windows its software uses are within legal limits.
The software, used by nearly all diesel car manufacturers, can cause temporary reductions in the injection of urea, which is used to lower nitrogen oxide emissions. This can help improve engine performance and extend the interval between refilling vehicles with urea.
It’s unlike the software that caused Volkswagen’s dieselgate scandal in 2015, which curbed harmful emissions from cars only in test scenarios, but not on the road.
The car manufacturers say temperature-based exhaust controls are covered by EU law as they can protect the engine from damage.
But the DUH claimed their intentions went beyond component protection reasons, saying the internal documents showed Bosch repeatedly emphasized legal risk in developing the software.
“This opens up new opportunities for car owners to recover damages,” emissions expert Axel Friedrich told reporters, speaking alongside DUH.
(Additional reporting by Victoria Waldersee, Ilona Wissenbach, Jan Schwartz, and Christina Amann; written by Rachel More; editing by Mark Potter, Elaine Hardcastle)
Photo: In this photo from Monday, April 27, 2020, the Volkswagen logo is on top of a VW headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany. Photo credit: Swen Pfoertner/dpa via TUSEN.
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