Volkswagen Dieselgate emissions cheating may cause 1,200 deaths in Europe, researchers predict

by Charles Miller

A new study by researchers at MIT estimates that excess emissions from Volkswagen models sold in Germany that were involved in the Dieselgate emissions cheating scandal will cause 1,200 premature deaths in Europe. According to findings published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, about 40% of these deaths will occur in Germany; the remaining deaths are predicted in neighboring countries, including the Czech Republic, France, and Poland.

Volkswagen admitted in September 2015 that it had installed an emissions “defeat device” on about 11 million VW and Audi “TDI Clean Diesel” models sold worldwide. The vehicles involved in the Dieselgate scandal include the 2009-2015 Audi A3 TDI, the 2016 Audi A6 Quattro, the 2016 Audi A7 Quattro, the 2016 Audi A8, the 2016 Audi A8L, the 2016 Audi Q5, the 2009-2015 Volkswagen Beetle TDI, the 2009-2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI, the 2009-2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI, the 2012-2015 Volkswagen Passat TDI, and the 2014 Volkswagen Touareg.

The software defeat device that was installed by Volkswagen on the affected VW and Audi models was designed to make the vehicles appear to emit lower levels of nitrogen oxide (NOx) during emissions testing. During normal driving conditions, the vehicles released NOx emissions levels that were up to 40-times higher than the maximum level allowed by the EPA.

Health Impact of Volkswagen’s Emissions Cheating

Researchers at MIT analyzed the health impact of excess emissions caused by the 2.6 million VW and Audi diesel models that were sold in Germany between 2008, when Volkswagen’s emissions cheating started, and 2015, when the Dieselgate scandal became public. Scientists estimated that as a result of the excess emissions during this period, about 500 premature deaths will occur in Germany. An additional 700 deaths are predicted to occur in Czech Republic, France, Poland, and other neighboring countries. The researchers estimated that the excess emissions resulting from Volkswagen’s emissions cheating could shorten life expectancy by 10-20 years.

The MIT researchers also estimated that Volkswagen could prevent an additional 2,600 premature deaths caused by excess emissions resulting from the Dieselgate scandal if it is able to recall and fix the affected vehicles by the end of 2017. Health costs from these emissions could be as high as 4.1 billion Euros if Volkswagen is unable to recall the vehicles.

A previous study published by the same MIT researchers estimated that 60 premature deaths will occur in the U.S. as a result of the 482,000 VW and Audi diesel models affected by the emissions scandal that were sold in this country. In July 2016, Volkswagen agreed to pay $14.7 billion to settle lawsuits filed by VW and Audi owners in the U.S. over the Dieselgate scandal.

MIT researchers say that the higher number of deaths caused in Europe by Volkswagen’s emissions cheating are the result of differences in population density, driving behavior, and atmospheric conditions between Europe and the U.S. The average population density in Europe is about three times higher than in the U.S., and cars in Europe are driven an average of 20% more. Differences in atmospheric conditions – specifically, higher amounts of airborne ammonia in Europe – also played a role in the higher number of premature deaths attributed in Europe compared to the U.S.

VW and Audi Diesel Owners May Qualify to File a Lawsuit

Drivers who purchased or leased a Volkswagen, Audi, or Porsche diesel model involved in the VW emissions cheating scandal may be eligible to take legal action. The first step determining whether you may be eligible to file a case is to consult with a law firm that can advise you regarding your legal options.

For more information on the emissions cheating lawsuits filed by Heygood, Orr & Pearson and to find out whether you may qualify to take legal action, contact our law firm by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001. You can also reach us by following the link to our free case evaluation form and answering a few simple questions to get started.


Case results depend upon a variety of factors unique to each case. Results of other cases do not guarantee or predict a similar result in any future case.

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by Charles Miller

Charles Miller is a licensed attorney and a partner at Heygood, Orr & Pearson. Charles focuses his practice on areas of complex commercial litigation and personal injury litigation.