British motorists' legal battle to win compensation from Volkswagen over the "dieselgate" scandal will finally kick off on Tuesday - with the car giant set to demand money from the claimants.

Lawyers who say they have signed up more than 50,000 VW owners between them have made a High Court application for a "group litigation order" as they try to start a class action against VW.

However, infighting between different groups of lawyers representing motorists has meant three previous hearings about compensation for alleged "fraudulent misrepresenation" have failed to make progress, according to the Daily Telegraph.

VW is understood to want to claim hundreds of thousands of pounds in costs it accrued preparing for the previous hearings.

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The German car company was sent into chaos in 2015 after it admitted "defeat devices" had been fitted to 11 million of its cars worldwide - with about 1.2 million in the UK. This software helped cars cheat emission tests and make them seem less polluting than they actually were.

VW has paid billions in compensation and fines in the US, but consumers in other countries have so far been offered no recompense. Legal groups in Britain are trying to win compensation on the grounds VW misrepresented its diesel cars' environmental benefits to buyers, and started signing up claimants to join the case soon after the scandal emerged.

However, the road to the court has been long, with lawyers arguing over who takes pole position in the case, as they will take a higher proportion of any compensation they win for affected drivers.

Lawyers are operating on a "no win, no fee" basis and have won the backing of legal funding group Therium Capital Management to bankroll the case. Groups such as Therium take a share of any compensation won - typically about 25 per cent - in return for their financing.

Law firms involved in the class action hearing this week are Slater & Gordon, Your Lawyers and Leigh Day. Another firm, Harcus Sinclair, was ordered by the courts to stop representing claimants in the case because of a row with Your Lawyers and Slater & Gordon over recruiting claimants.

This disagreement contributed to delays in getting the case heard.

A spokesman for law firm Slater & Gordon defended the hold-ups, saying the case was the biggest and most complex class action group legal action the UK.

"We need to make sure that we are not repeating claims and running up costs for the same work," he said. "We're going up against a giant car company and need to make sure we're prepared."

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Aman Johal, director of Your Lawyers, said: "It is time that victims of VW's emissions scandal achieve justice. Claimants in the UK are yet to receive anything, unlike their US counterparts, where VW agreed a US$25 billion ($34.2b)) settlement with owners, regulators, states and dealers."

VW has insisted it did not break British laws. The company said: "Our consistent position has been that the instigation of UK legal proceedings was both premature and unfounded, and we will robustly defend any such litigation. There is no legal basis for customer claims in connection with the diesel matter."