The German car manufacturer admitted wrongdoing and it turned out that the use of the cheating software had not been isolated to the U.S. In Europe, it had argued that the software could be justified by the fact that it helps protect the engine over time.
Volkswagen was referred to as “company X” in the court ruling, which established that “a manufacturer cannot install a defeat device which systematically improves, during approval procedures, the performance of the vehicle emission control system and thus obtain approval of the vehicle."
The case was examined by the ECJ after the Paris prosecutor's office opened a judicial investigation into whether Volkswagen deceived buyers of diesel cars fitted with the device.
In its detailed and technical ruling, the court dismissed the idea that the presence of the device could be justified by the fact it contributes to preventing the ageing or clogging up of the engine.
“In order to be justified, the presence of such a device must allow the engine to be protected against sudden and exceptional damage, and that only those immediate risks of damage which give rise to a specific hazard when the vehicle is driven are such as to justify the use of a defeat device," the court said.
Volkswagen admitted that about 11 million diesel vehicles worldwide were fitted with the deceptive software, which reduced nitrogen oxide emissions when the cars were placed on a test machine but allowed higher emissions and improved engine performance during normal driving. The scandal cost Volkswagen 30 billion euros ($35 billion) in fines and civil settlements and led to the recall of millions of vehicles.