Deutsche See, distributor for German fish, is now the first German customer to sue Volkswagen over their recent emissions-cheating scandal. Deutsche See is suing Volkswagen for misrepresenting a fleet of vehicles that the company leased as being environmentally friendly.
While Volkswagen already faces a number of lawsuits from individual owners, regulators, states and dealers in the U.S., this is the first case brought by a corporate customer in its home market.
Deutsche See, a Bremerhaven-based company, is Germany’s biggest fish and seafood distributor. The company leases about 500 vehicles from Volkswagen. Deutsche See said it had been unable to reach an out-of-court settlement.
Deutsche See is reportedly suing for around 11.9 million euros, or $12.8 million, according to a German tabloid, Bild am Sonntag.
“We are deeply disappointed with Volkswagen and feel we have been deceived and betrayed,” Egbert Miebach, the CEO of Deutsche See, said.
“Deutsche See only went into partnership with Volkswagen because Volkswagen promised the most environmentally friendly, sustainable mobility concept,” Miebach said a statement from Deutsche See.
Deutsche See said it filed a complaint for malicious deception at the regional court in Brunswick. The regional court that the complaint was filed at is also near the Volkswagen Wolfsburg headquarters.
Deutsche See won the German sustainability award in 2010 for their dedication and commitment to preserving fish stock. The German customer claims that Volkswagen’s rigging has caused lasting damage to the fish distributor’s reputation.
The company has converted their entire fleet to Volkswagen’s, believing that they were investing in low emissions vehicles. About 500 of the vehicles that Deutsche See are believed to have been fitted with the emissions-rigging software that Volkswagen used.
In September 2015, Volkswagen admitted that it had used software that allowed it to cheat in the diesel-emissions test in the U.S. This legal fallout has ended up costing the company more than $21.6 billion thus far. Volkswagen’s former CEO Martin Winterkorn is also being investigated by German prosecutors for suspected fraud and market manipulation.
In the U.S., Volkswagen has agreed to buy back 500,000 cars under a $15 billion settlement with the U.S. authorities and car owners.
Volkswagen has yet to comment on the lawsuit filed by Deutsche See. The German customer acted after the out-of-court talks turned into just dealing with lawyers and PR managers.
Volkswagen also faces group legal action in the UK from motorists who are demanding similar compensation deals.