A German court has ruled Volkswagen must buy back diesel cars with software that evaded emissions testing – but the owners must accept the current value of the car based on the distance they drove since buying it, not the purchase price.

Volkswagen said the decision announced on Monday would clear the way for settlement of remaining consumer claims in Germany.

The decision affects some 60,000 individual claims brought by car owners there; around 262,000 others have already been covered by an 830 million euro ($A1.38 billion) class-action settlement.

“For the majority of the 60,000 pending cases, this ruling provides clarity,” the company said in a statement.

“Volkswagen is now seeking to bring these proceedings to a prompt conclusion in agreement with the plaintiffs. We will therefore approach the plaintiffs with the adequate settlement proposals. The aim is to relieve the burden on the judiciary as quickly as possible.”

The case that was decided Monday involved a plaintiff who bought a Volkswagen Sharan model in 2014 that was equipped with the software that turned off emissions controls during testing.

He had sought the full purchase price but the court ruled he must accept less due to depreciation related to the distance he drove. The individual case is expected to serve as a guideline for others.

Volkswagen was caught cheating by US authorities in September 2015 and has since paid more than 33 billion euros in fines and settlements worldwide. Two executives went to prison in the United States and more are facing criminal proceedings and investigations in Germany.

Volkswagen still faces lawsuits from investors.

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