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Korean consumers sue Volkswagen

   Two owners of Volkswagen vehicles filed a lawsuit against the German carmaker over its emission-rigging scheme, the first legal action of its kind in the country, their lawyers said Wednesday.
Corporate logo of Volkswagen
Corporate logo of Volkswagen

Lawyer Ha Jong-sun said the owners had decided to take the case to a Seoul court to demand Volkswagen and its local dealers cancel their contracts and refund the cost of the vehicles.

One of the two Korean plaintiffs involved in the case owns a 2014 Audi Q5 2.0 TDI, while the other drives a 2009 Volkswagen Tiguan 2.0 TDI.

The two cars are not included in the list of models that the U.S. authorities recalled for cheating emission tests last week, and it needs to be confirmed that the two models installed the particular software to pass the emission tests.

The lawyer, however, was confident of winning the case, saying, “Based on Article 110 of the nation’s civil act, the plaintiffs, who were disappointed by the intentional fraud done by Volkswagen, are asking to invalidate their contract, not recall.’’

Article 110 says a declaration of intention made by fraud or duress may be voidable.

“Had it not been for the deceitful act by the accused, the plaintiffs would not have purchased the cars, paying a premium for diesel-powered cars,” the lawyer said.

Korean consumers have paid 5 million won ($4,200) to 10 million won more for diesel vehicles over the gasoline-powered equivalents under the same brand due to better fuel economy and their cleaner image.

The law firm Barun hinted that similar legal actions will follow in the wake of the first case.

“The company received a flood of calls from Volkswagen car owners this morning following news reports about the case,” Ha said.

In an attempt to overcome the emissions-rigging scandal, Volkswagen Group is allegedly gearing for its largest-ever recall, but it may not be effective in Korea.

“Different from consumers in other countries, Koreans tend to ask for redemption from falling brand value in addition to damages from emission-rigging,” Ha said.

Car industry experts forecast Volkswagen’s emissions scam would affect the fast-growing sales of the world’s largest carmaker.

“Korean consumers, who were willing to pay more for the premium image of Volkswagen and Audi cars are shocked by the recent cheating scandal,” an industry insider said.

Volkswagen and Audi accounted for 28.2 percent of all foreign cars sold in the first eight months, according to the Korea Automobile Importers and Distributors Association.

Audi‘s concerns over the impact on sales in Korea has deepened since its headquarters announced Monday that 2.1 million Audi cars worldwide were fitted with the software that allowed parent Volkswagen to cheat U.S. emission tests. Affected model include the A1, A3, A4, A5, A6, TT, Q3 and Q5, most of which are on sale in Korea.

In the meantime, the local unit of Volkswagen declined to comment on the first lawsuit in Seoul against the company, repeatedly saying it will do its best to clear all allegations and suspicions in a swift, sincere and transparent manner.

By Seo Jee-yeon (