Talk to Our Committee to Avoid Lawsuits, Volkswagen Dealers Tell Automaker

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

Volkswagen dealers in the U.S. have formed a go-to team tasked with drawing compensation out of the automaker while avoiding a looming barrage of dealer lawsuits.

The five-member committee was formed at a dealers-only meeting held yesterday at the National Automobile Dealers Association convention in Las Vegas, one day before U.S. dealers were expected to meet with top Volkswagen brass, Automotive News has reported.

The move is designed to head off a potential slew of lawsuits from U.S. dealers seeking reparations for sunk costs and lost revenue stemming from the automaker’s expansion push and subsequent diesel emissions scandal.

One of the five negotiators in the committee is Jason Kuhn, chairman of Tampa’s Kuhn Automotive Group, who said the group plans to negotiate a settlement package out of Volkswagen so dealers can get back to the task of running their businesses.

“At the end of the day, we both need to get past this, and doing it in a courtroom is not acceptable,” Kuhn told Automotive News.

One New York-based lawyer has already drafted a class-action lawsuit for a group of Volkswagen dealers, but that party is awaiting the results of this weekend’s NADA meeting with VW brand chair Herbert Diess and North American chief Hinrich Woebcken.

U.S. dealers said they felt increasingly ignored by Volkswagen head office as the emissions scandal persisted, an alienation that worsened when their biggest ally, Volkswagen of America CEO Michael Horn, abruptly resigned in early March.

Besides Kuhn, the dealer committee is made up of Mike Sullivan, owner of the LAcarGuy network in southern California, Jimmy Ellis of Atlanta’s Jim Ellis Automotive Group, Richard Fisher, owner of the Evanston, Illinois-based Autobarn Evanston Dealer Group, and Jack Bertolet Jr., president of Orwigsburg, Pennsylvania’s J. Bertolet Volkswagen.

The NADA convention wraps up Sunday.

[Image: Volkswagen, Rob Brewer/Flickr]

Steph Willems
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  • Carrera Carrera on Apr 03, 2016

    The VW dealers are waiting for a miracle. Just yesterday after about 3 months of search I saw a vehicle that peaked my interest. A nice 2014 VW Sportwagen with only 10k miles and 6 speed manual. The dealership is about 2 hrs. away from my house. This is one of those "unfixable" vehicles, without the urea. I didn't want their fix anyway and since I live in a state that doesn't have inspections, who cares? I get there and find a decent size dealership, Saturday afternoon, beautiful day out, sunshine. Only about 3 customers kicking tires. The vehicle was on their lot for 155 days at this time. It was priced at the pre-scandal prices for $19,989. This is the lower trim level, no sunroof, no navigation, just back-up camera and roof rack. I test drove it and found the torque to be intoxicating in 2nd and 3rd gear. I went inside and told them that I will also need to test drive another vehicle at another dealership. Since the car only had 10K on the clock and it is 2 years old I asked about the warranty. Dealer said, these diesel vehicles have no bumper to bumper warranty at all, but we will give you included in the price some Zurich company aftermarket warranty. I found that really bizarre but didn't dispute it. I drive 47 miles each way to work and I knew that for the right price I was ready to take a huge leap of faith. My logical side of the brain kept telling me to run, don't walk. As soon as we started to talk about the price, the salesperson told me how busy they are, and have been lately, although I could clearly hear crickets and see tumbleweeds on the showroom floor. I told him that I am ready to buy if the price is right but we are a bit far away from a fair, post-dieselgate realistic price. The salesperson laughed and said " oh no, this is plenty discounted, we are not going lower than 19K". At that moment I realized that they are waiting for the buy-back from VW. he had no incentive to sell that car. Not unless I gave him pre-dieselgate price of 19K. I politely said good-bye, got up, walked across the street, test drove the other used car I had in mind and bought it after short negotiation. Now I am the owner of a mint condition, 9k miles on the dashboard, great little commuter, 2014 Corolla S plus with 6 speed manual. This car came with bumper to bumper warranty, extended warranty for engine and transmission ( all used Toyotas do) and will probably go 300K miles. I feel that my unrealistic dream to own a VW diesel went up in smoke last night, but I also feel that I dodged a bullet.

  • Notadude Notadude on Apr 03, 2016

    Excellent choice with the Corolla. My husband had a Geo Prizm, a rebadged Corolla, for years. It was an unkillable, nice little car. Our neighbor had one too that lasted her many years. I cannot wait to get back in a Japanese car. I will never buy another VW again after my husband and I unload our TDIs. You really did dodge a bullet. I'm jealous.

  • EBFlex At the summer property putting boats in the water, leveling boat lifts, cleaning the lots for summer, etc. Typical cabin stuff in the most beautiful place on the planet
  • Lou_BC I've I spent the past few days in what we refer to as "the lower mainland". I see Tesla's everywhere and virtually every other brand of EV. I was in downtown Vancouver along side a Rivian R1T. A Rivian R1S came off as side street and was following it. I saw one other R1S. 18% of new vehicles in BC are EV'S. It tends to match what I saw out my windshield. I only saw 2 fullsized pickups. One was a cool '91 3/4 ton regular cab. I ran across 2 Tacoma's. Not many Jeeps. There were plenty of Porches, Mercedes, and BMW's. I saw 2 Aston Martin DBX707's. It's been fun car watching other than the stress of driving in big city urban traffic. I'd rather dodge 146,000 pound 9 axle logging trucks on one lane roads.
  • IBx1 Never got the appeal of these; it looks like there was a Soviet mandate to create a car with two doors and a roof that could be configured in different ways.
  • CAMeyer Considering how many voters will be voting for Trump because they remember that gas prices were low in 2020–never mind the pandemic—this seems like a wise move.
  • The Oracle Been out on the boat on Lake James (NC) and cooking up some hella good food here with friends at the lake place.