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BRUNSWICK: The first major German court case against Volks­wagen over the “dieselgate” scandal that has shaken up the car industry opened Monday, as investors pursue the world’s largest automaker for billions in compensation.

A regional court in Brunswick began examining whether the auto giant should have informed investors sooner about so-called “defeat devices” it built into 11 million cars worldwide to fool regulatory emissions tests.

Packed with around 50 lawyers from Volkswagen and its shareholders and dozens of plaintiffs and

curious locals, the hearing had to be moved to a convention centre to fit all of the attendees.

“I want to get back what we lost,” Hartmut Bleumer, who invested some 10,000 euros ($11,600) in the firm, told AFP.

The shareholders’ “model case” against VW is supposed to clear up 193 questions common to some 3,650 claims totalling around 9bn euros.

At issue is a 40 per cent plunge in Volkswagen stock over two days in September 2015, which wiped billions off its market value.

Days earlier, US authorities accused the group of using the defeat devices — engine software designed to cut harmful emissions during regulatory tests, only to allow them to rise again during on-road driving.

Investors say they could have avoided painful losses had executives - who are legally obliged to share promptly any information that could affect the share price - informed them sooner of the cheating.

On the first day of proceedings, the court said claims dating before July 2012 may have to be excluded because of statute of limitations rules, although no final decision was made.

VW lawyer Markus Pfueller hailed the judges’ preliminary opinion as “positive”.

But representatives for the plaintiffs were undeterred, saying that would still leave around two thirds of their cases on the table.

Published in Dawn, September 11th, 2018