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Volkswagen has responded to the rising political, social and, potentially, legal pressure that’s been building on it to compensate European owners of cars fitted emissions testing defeat devices.

In a statement to Reuters, the company stated: “The software contained in vehicles with a EA189 engine in the view of Volkswagen represents no unlawful defeat device under European law.

“The efficiency of the emissions cleanup system will not be reduced in those vehicles which however would be a prerequisite for the existence of an unlawful defeat device in the legal sense.”

Despite this, Volkswagen says that it “wants to — in the special interest of customers — cooperate constructively and cooperatively hand in hand with the regulators as well as with the [German] Federal Motor Vehicle Authority” and that “this intensive cooperation should not be burdened by a contentious dispute”.

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Last month, a Spanish court found in favour of an owner of an affected vehicle, and fined Volkswagen and its subsidiaries. This, according to the news wire, has led to calls from consumer rights groups for other owners to join class action lawsuits against the automaker.

The software, or defeat device, in question detects when the car is being put through laboratory testing and enables the vehicle’s full suite of hardware to ensure that its emissions are within the legal range.

According to the paper that first exposed this scheme, once the car is back on the open road, it can emit up to 35 times the legal limit of NOx.

Although Volkswagen believes that it’s on the right side of the European law, it was in breach of regulations in the United States, and the car maker recently had a US$14.7 billion ($19.1 billion) settlement with the US government ratified by a judge.

That agreement will see the automaker fork out compensation to owners and lessees of affected vehicles, as well as pay for vehicle buy backs and remediation work to mitigate the effects of the oxides of nitrogen (NOx) that its cars illegally pumped into the atmosphere.

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In addition to believing that its defeat device was technically legal in the EU, Volkswagen also disagrees with Germany’s Federal Environmental Agency and the United States’ Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) about the health effects of NOx.

The EPA describes NOx as a “family of poisonous, highly reactive gases”. The German automaker, however, contends that “a reliable determination of morbidity or even fatalities for certain demographic groups based on our level of knowledge is not possible from a scientific point of view”.

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