German car maker Volkswagen said Saturday that it is suing U.S. giant General Motors Corp. and its unit Adam Opel for defamation, escalating a three-year battle over alleged industrial espionage.
Volkswagen board member Klaus Kocks said the company had filed a lawsuit for defamation with the Frankfurt district court. The suit seeks $6.6 million in damages for statements by GM and Opel that Kocks alleged were injurious to VW's reputation.
Kocks said GM and Opel made the statements at news conferences in Germany and the United States after the firms filed a civil action in the United States in March against VW.
The lawsuit accused VW's chief executive, Ferdinand Piech, purchasing and production chief Jose Ignacio Lopez and other managers of industrial espionage and conspiracy. VW and Lopez reject the accusations.
Lopez and seven other managers moved to VW from GM in 1993. GM alleges that they stole secret documents to take with them.
Kocks said Volkswagen regards the statements alleging espionage and conspiracy as part of a systematic campaign to harm VW's image.
He said there was no evidence to back up the allegations, and he added that they went far beyond what was acceptable among competitors.
Kocks said the lawsuit aimed to force GM and Opel to prove their allegations or to withdraw them.
In Detroit, GM said it had received reports of the lawsuit but had not yet been served with any legal papers.