An Australian law firm will launch a $72 million class action lawsuit Thursday on behalf of Volkswagen vehicle owners affected by the massive emissions scandal, according to media reports. The news comes as the German automaker continues with its new sales initiatives to rebuild trust in the United States.
Over 10,000 Australian owners have already registered for the class action that targets the German parent companies involved in the scam, not just the local subsidiaries, law firm Maurice Blackburn reportedly said. Volkswagen faces several lawsuits after being rocked by the revelation of emissions cheating practices that came to light in September when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a notice of violation that certain diesel engine cars made by the automaker had a programming that lowered emissions readings during testing.
"I am extremely disappointed that, because of the company's deceitful conduct, I've now got a car that is emitting dirty diesel," Audi owner Robyn Richardson told a news conference in Sydney, according to Reuters. "I am here to bring them to account for what they've done. I'm here to deter other companies from behaving similarly," added Richardson, who is one of the lead applicants for the class action in Australia.
On behalf of over 90,000 car owners, the law firm will seek to recover the full cost of the vehicle and also damages for misleading the customers, Maurice Blackburn Principal Jason Geisker reportedly said.
According to Reuters, Volkswagen Group Australia (VGA) did not comment on the latest legal move but apologized for any disappointment.
"VGA assures all its customers that the affected cars are technically safe and the necessary measures will be undertaken at no cost to them," the company said in a statement. "We will do everything we can to fix this problem and regain the trust of our customers."
Volkswagen admitted it had rigged emission levels by employing a type of software, a so-called defeat device. Since then, more allegations of emissions cheating by the company have surfaced. The defeat device has affected at least 11 million Volkswagen diesel vehicles worldwide, including about 500,000 in the U.S.
Earlier this month, EPA said that Volkswagen installed software designed to defeat emissions tests on 2014 to 2016 vehicles with 3.0 liter, six-cylinder diesel engines, which included Audi and Porsche models.
On Wednesday, Audi reportedly said that the emissions scandal has not affected the sales of the company in the U.S.
"We'll have a record November and a record December," Audi of America President Scott Keogh told reporters at the Los Angeles Auto Show, according to the Associated Press (AP). In 2014, Audi sold 36,000 cars in the U.S. in November and December. Keogh added that for all of this year, Audi expected U.S. sales to top 200,000 cars sold for the first time.
Keogh also said that while sales were important, fixing cars that are rigged with cheating software was a priority.
Volkswagen announced Wednesday that 120,000 owners of its diesel cars will receive $500 gift cards and $500 for vehicle repairs.
Last week, Volkswagen said it was offering a $500 prepaid Visa gift card, a separate card good for $500 toward services at a Volkswagen dealerships and free 24-hour roadside assistance for three years -- as part of a goodwill gesture, something that could mean at least $120 million in benefits to those affected by the scandal.