Volkswagen has found itself in hot water yet again – this time over claims that it illegally sold thousands of unlicensed pre-production vehicles that should have been destroyed.
According to the German business newspaper Handelsblatt, the world’s most deceitful car manufacturer now admits selling 6,700 of these cars between 2006 and 2018. It says 4,000 were sold in Germany, with the rest shipped to other parts of Europe and to North America.
Another publication, Spiegel, claims internal documents suggest a much higher number, and that almost 17,000 test cars have been sold on the used market over the last 12 years.
Pre-production cars are built to showcase and test a new model before it comes to showrooms, but Handelsblatt says none of the cars that Volkswagen sold had been approved by transport authorities and should have been scrapped under German law (or most other countries’ laws, for that matter).
Speaking to the newspaper, Klaus Müller, head of German consumer rights group VZBV, said: “The fact that these are VW models built between 2006 and 2018 show that Volkswagen has not understood anything, even three years after the diesel scandal became known.”
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The report says Volkswagen isn’t aware of any accidents involving pre-production cars but the firm would be recalling them because it was ‘not certain’ how much they differed from the approved production versions of the cars.
It also suggests that German authorities are debating whether to fine the manufacturer ‘a couple of thousand euros’ for each test vehicle sold – a move that could see it penalised to the tune of some €34m (circa £30.5m).
Given that hundreds or even thousands of these vehicles ended up in the USA, Volkswagen could find itself facing yet another high-profile class action from understandably disgruntled American customers and enthusiastic law firms keen to pursue the matter.