Volkswagen has revealed that almost 1.2m vehicles in the UK are involved in the diesel emissions scandal that has rocked the carmaker, meaning more than one in 10 diesel cars on the country’s roads are affected.
VW said the diesel vehicles include 508,276 Volkswagen cars, 393,450 Audis, 76,773 Seats, 131,569 Škodas and 79,838 Volkswagen commercial vehicles. The total number of vehicles affected is 1,189,906.
This is the first time VW has admitted how many of the 11m vehicles fitted with a defeat device to cheat emissions tests are in the UK.
The admission means that the UK is one of the countries worst affected by the scandal and will increase the pressure on the government to launch a full investigation.
Figures from the Department for Transport show that there were 10.7m diesel cars on Britain’s roads at the end of 2014 and that an estimated 5.3m of the petrol and diesel cars are Volkswagens or one of the groups’ sister brands.
Patrick McLoughlin, the transport secretary, said: “The government’s priority is to protect the public and I understand VW are contacting all UK customers affected. I have made clear to the managing director this needs to happen as soon as possible.
“The government expects VW to set out quickly the next steps it will take to correct the problem and support owners of these vehicles already purchased in the UK.”
VW said 2.8m vehicles in Germany are involved, while 482,000 cars have been recalled in the US.
The company intends to set up a “self-serve process” that will allow UK motorists to find out if their vehicle is affected. Dealers will also be sent the vehicle identification numbers of those involved.
Affected customers will be contacted about visiting a mechanic to have their cars refitted. The cars fitted with a defeat device have EA 189 EU5 engines.
However, VW is yet to reveal the full details of the recall plan, which will need to be approved by regulators. The carmaker said: “In the meantime, all vehicles are technically safe and roadworthy. Volkswagen Group UK is committed to supporting its customers and its retailers through the coming weeks.”
VW has set aside €6.5bn (£4.8bn) to cover the cost of the crisis, so motorists will not have to pay for the refit.
However, Leigh Day, the law firm, said it had written to the new chief executive of VW, Matthias Müller, to ask that it refund UK consumers the premium they paid for their “clean” diesel cars, as well as compensation for other losses.
The letter said the fitting of defeat devices in VW vehicles “undoubtedly amounts to a misrepresentation and a breach of contract” and demanded a meeting with the company’s bosses.
Leigh Day said it was investigating legal claims on behalf of hundreds of vehicle owners and companies with fleets of cars.
Bozena Michalowska Howells, part of the consumer law and product safety group at Leigh Day, wrote in the letter: “While we welcome the news that repairs will be undertaken to upgrade the affected cars to comply with EU nitrogen dioxide emission standards, such repairs may result in reduced fuel efficiency and increased CO2 emissions which in turn may impact upon the vehicle excise duty payable and other associated costs.
“Our clients are also very concerned about the impact of the use of defeat devices on the resale value of their cars.”