Much has been made lately of the Volkswagen “defeat device” scandal, and it seems to now encompass Audi as well. For the uninitiated, the un-refuted story is that VW programmed its diesel vehicles to perform differently under EPA testing conditions that they would in the real world, on actual roads while driven by actual people. Better EPA rating, higher sales, but no benefit to the environment. A whole bunch of people thought they were buying a greener car, but they were being duped. When the story broke, all hell broke loose with it, and the Volkswagen name was severely tarnished, maybe never to recover its former reputation. Lawsuits piled up, and the company took great pains to diffuse the damage.
Last week, German investigators went after the company’s Audi subsidiary, and searched the sub’s Ingolstadt headquarters for evidence that Audi, too, was part of the scheme to defraud the EPA. To be sure, Audi suits are sure to come as well, even as claims against Volkswagen mount. Very likely, the parent is likely to be named in suits against the subsidiary, and it thus becomes crucial for plaintiffs to serve process in a meticulous manner.
Regardless of which company is on the hook, the Hague Service Convention fully controls how notice is officially given to the defendants in Germany. There is but one proper avenue to service in Germany (described here), and FedEx ain’t it, so don’t even try it.
Know, too, that you cannot simply serve Audi and assume that Volkswagen will show up to defend. You’ll need two separate Hague requests sent to two separate Central Authorities– one in Lower Saxony and the other in Bavaria (don’t forget to translate!). And you’ll need to wait a couple of months until proof comes back. The Germans are pretty quick compared to the rest of the world, but measure the response time with a calendar– not a clock.