Volkswagen to Keep Paying for Diesel Car Scandal Long After Buybacks

NEWS ANALYSIS: Volkswagen is spending billions to buy back diesel-powered cars equipped with emissions test cheating software. It remains to be seen if the scandal will permanently sour car buyers' interest in diesels.

VW Diesel Settlement

The Volkswagen emissions scandal has now come home for me, and for thousands of other VW owners. We’ve now reached the point where the company is taking its cars back.

In September, 2015, Volkswagen admitted that the company had been cheating on emissions tests for diesel cars sold in the United States. The number of cars affected was about 500,000 cars with 4-cylinder diesel engines, and another approximately 80,000 with six cylinder engines. Most of the cars were Volkswagen, but a significant number were Audi and a few were Porsche SUVs.

Volkswagen engineers had installed software on the fuel injection computers of these vehicles that was able to detect when the car was having its emissions tested, and to adjust its emissions so that it would pass. The rest of the time, the cars exceeded emissions limits, but ran more smoothly and got better fuel mileage. The affected cars were from the 2008 model year and later.

Volkswagen was sued by the Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board, and accepted a settlement that required the company to buy back the affected cars or to fix them for free. The company was ordered to provide restitution to owners of the cars for having been sold supposedly clean diesels under what turned out to be false pretenses.

After a year of court procedures, the owners of 4-cylinderVolkswagen cars were officially finally presented with the option of selling their cars back to Volkswagen. The deal required that owners present their cars to a VW representative, who would inspect their car, and the provide a pre-negotiated settlement.

I was one of those owners.

For me the process started in the fall of 2016, when I filled out the information on the VW Court Settlement website. The company wanted to know how many miles were on the car (a 2015 Beetle), how much of a car loan I had and some details about the options and other items affecting value. Then I waited.

Eventually, I was given the opportunity to set up an appointment so that a VW representative could inspect the car and decide if it was really worth what the company was proposing to pay for it. That day came on April 10 after months of waiting.

I’d been dreading the day, certain that I’d find the company looking for ways to deny my claim or at least reduce the amount offered under the settlement terms. That didn’t happen.

Instead, I was ushered into a sparsely furnished office where I was greeted by a man with the demeanor of a neighborhood banker. We talked quietly and signed forms. The VW representative inspected the car and took photos, then returned with the verdict.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...