By on July 20, 2016

Jetta TDI 2015

Volkswagen diesel owners will be able to spend many happy, polluting miles on the road, even after they request a fix instead of a buyback.

Buried in the automaker’s $15.3 billion U.S. settlement is the expectation that most of the recalled vehicles will still spew twice the allowable rate of emissions after being repaired, according to Bloomberg. A fix for the 475,000 2.0-liter diesels hasn’t been approved, but regulators fully expect any repair plan to fail — and they’re grudgingly okay with it.

Under the buyback plan, owners can trade their defeat device-equipped cars for cash, or seek a repair. The problem is pre-2015 2.0-liter TDI models came with an older engine that’s proving hard to clean up.

The Natural Resources Defense Council told Bloomberg that a full mechanical fix — meaning the installation of a urea tank system used by later models — was taken off the table after Volkswagen deemed it too expensive. No regulator will say what the automaker’s proposed fix is, but the California Air Resources Board claims any repair will only reduce emissions by 80 to 90 percent. That means the older diesels will still be twice as dirty as they should be.

What makes CARB and the Environmental Protection Agency okay with this? Money — specifically the $4.7 billion set aside in the settlement for environmental mitigation measures. If Volkswagen’s diesels are going to continue to pollute, other sources of emissions need to go.

“The settlement protects both consumers and the public,” EPA spokesman Nick Conger told Bloomberg. “It offers owners the flexibility to choose what’s right for them, and requires VW to fully offset the excess NOx pollution it is responsible for.”

According to CARB, the upgraded emissions system on older fixed vehicles will be certified to last 120,000 miles, with the newer models being certified for 150,000.

A fix for the newest models is expected by July 29, with approval scheduled for October 14. Second-generation TDI models have a fix proposal deadline of December 16, and could be approved by March 3. The oldest diesels have a deadline of November 11, and an approval date of January 27. Volkswagen’s proposed fix for its 3.0-liter diesel models was recently rejected by U.S. regulators.

[Image: Volkswagen of America]

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45 Comments on “Your Volkswagen Diesel Will Still Be a Polluting Automotive Pariah After Being Fixed...”


  • avatar
    Jimal

    While we haven’t 100% decided what we are doing with my wife’s 2013 Passat TDI, I’m leaning toward keeping the car and waiting for the repair. Something tells me that they won’t come up with a solution and they’ll end up offering a second buy back for the difference between the original buyback and the original repair payoff.

    • 0 avatar
      Michael McDonald

      I’d take the buyback if I were you. If they don’t do a secondary buyback that car with be worth squat if you ever go to sell or trade it in. With the buyback you get September value PLUS cash on top of it. You can’t go wrong.

      • 0 avatar
        mason

        If they don’t come up with a repair plan that CARB and the EPA authorize they have to offer another buy back.

      • 0 avatar
        TriumphDriver

        The buyback is probably the most logical option although it is perhaps not as clearly obvious as it might be. You are getting a fair value for the car but the amount of compensation is not really that significant. Better than a poke in the eye, but as far as I am concerned that’s about it.
        I would imagine a lot of owners were expecting to drive the car into the ground (that was my plan) rather than sell it before it was life-expired. Owners of the older vehicles (mine is a 2011) have probably paid off any loan, so the prospect of getting another monthly payment is not what they wished for.
        My annual mileage has dropped quite a bit since I bought the Jetta so I probably will sell the car back to VW and just use my truck. Even if fuel prices increase my overall costs would still be lower than servicing another car loan. The other factor is that right now neither VW nor any other manufacturer offers anything that really appeals to me as much as the Sportwagen did.

        • 0 avatar
          seth1065

          Triumph dave,
          I am kinda of in the same boat, I have a 11 w 127,000 miles on it and paid off I was hoping to drive it a few more years and then it would become my sons, know I am looking at selling it back and getting another car payment which was not what I was hoping for at this time or seeing if the almighty fix will not destroy it. There is really nothing that I want or can afford ( no e class wagon for me) that could replace the sports wagon

      • 0 avatar
        seth1065

        The buyback number includes the extra cash some , do well , some do ok and some not so ok.

      • 0 avatar
        Jimal

        The thing is, my wife likes the car. We always planned to keep the car and run it into the ground, which you should do with a TDI. I don’t like the car enough to buy a gas Passat; my wife prefers a manual, but that doesn’t appear to be an option with the refresh, and the older cars the only option is the odd duck 2.5 5-cylinder.

        I thought they offered a 1.8T/5-speed combo just before the refresh last year, but I’m damned if I can find one.

    • 0 avatar
      Michael McDonald

      I’ll add that my perspective is of someone working for a dealership, so it may be skewed more towards take the money and run into another car.

  • avatar
    tedward

    This is good, at least from a vehicle owners point of view. There will inevitably be future emissions and mileage scandals and future me could very well end up being the owner of an affected vehicle. I’m glad that the epa has the mindset that the owners should be minimally impacted as a no fault party.

    Obviously it would be better if the fix was complete, but this isn’t a safety scandal so it properly should be weighed against the property rights and preferences of vehicle owners.

    • 0 avatar
      wsn

      “Obviously it would be better if the fix was complete, but this isn’t a safety scandal so it properly should be weighed against the property rights and preferences of vehicle owners.”

      Why is this not a safety scandal? People literally die from air pollution. The scene may not be as dramatic as a failed brake pedal, but the tally could definitely be much higher.

      • 0 avatar
        tedward

        Wsn

        Only bc of the relatively small number of vehicles affected vs our total nox exposure. If everyone was doing it, and buying these vehicles by the millions, then it would become one for sure. The important thing is that we avoid that situation, which I’d say has happened given the absurdly high settlement amount.

        Also, I like the epa’s mission. I wouldn’t give the caa or the epa’s budget a snowballs chance in hell at remaining intact if they turned their guns on vehicle owners as well as manufacturers. Carb can do that because of their ca base, but almost no where else in the country could politically support those extreme levels of cost transference to the customer.

        • 0 avatar
          tedward

          I’m not trying to imply that the vw scandal could create that level of political backlash, I’m assuming a similar future scandal. There will always be another scandal. Imagine if this was gm trucks, or a corolla or civic issue. Try applying the precedent of forced vehicle loss on that scale and you’ll see what I’m worrying about.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I’m torn on this.

    On one hand, meaningful pollution offsets funded by VW’s penalties make sense. On the other hand, I’m inclined to hold their feet to the fire, and make them crush the whole 09-15 TDI population.

    As for owning one now or in the future – no way.

    • 0 avatar
      jkross22

      And by pollution offsets, you mean paying off CARB and the EPA. I’m not sure how paying off government agencies reduces air pollution.

      80-90% less polluting sounds great until the line about TDI’s still polluting at twice the allowed level appeared.

      If the issue is really about clean air, it seems to me the verdict from EPA and CARB should be get the TDI’s compliant or crush em. As an air breather, that’s what I would hope to see.

      To quote David Axelrod, the optics of this look really bad.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        The government that you think is trying to oppress you is attempting to make it easier for the vehicle owners.

        If you had a car that you liked and that was subject to recall but was otherwise in good condition, and someone in Washington forced you to either surrender it to the Big Brother Towing Company or else, then you’d be bellyaching about that, instead.

        • 0 avatar
          jkross22

          You know what I would do if I had a bad VW? Wow. Peer inside your crystal ball and tell me the name of the next Nintendo stock pick.

          Sounds like you’re cool with cars spewing twice the NOx they’re supposed to. I prefer clean air. NOx is nasty stuff.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            Some VW owners are happy with their cars. You want to make them feel bullied by forcing them to give up those cars even though they were just customers who didn’t know that there was an emissions issue?

            The regulators are providing consumers with an option that you apparently don’t want them to have. That doesn’t sound particularly conservative of you.

          • 0 avatar
            jkross22

            VW should be compelled to make owners whole either through compensation or through ensuring adherence for existing emissions compliance that governs all diesel cars. Owner’s choice.

            It’s unfortunate that you’re wanting to see this problem mostly through a political lens. NOx doesn’t care if you’re going to Cleveland or Philadelphia for your kool-aid.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            If “political lens” is defined as “doing as much as possible to avoid disrupting the lives of VW owners who unwittingly bought polluting cars”, then I suppose that’s political.

            I’m pretty sure that you’re taking this position simply because you want to complain about the government.

            When Uncle Sam hauls some guy off to jail and/or seizes his bank account in order to collect a fine because he’s overly fond of his Jetta Sportwagen and doesn’t want to give it up, are you going to cheer that on? Because that’s exactly what you’re recommending, and that would happen under your scenario.

          • 0 avatar
            jkross22

            “I’m pretty sure that you’re taking this position simply because you want to complain about the government.”

            Doesn’t seem like you read what I wrote:

            “VW should be compelled to make owners whole either through compensation or through ensuring adherence for existing emissions compliance that governs all diesel cars. Owner’s choice.”

            I wouldn’t advise trying to guess what other people are thinking. It’s like trying to find your way around Seattle with a map of Des Moines.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            You’re doing the usual vague conservative dance of whining without offering any details or workable solutions.

            Be very specific: What would you do to VW owners who refused to surrender their cars under this mandatory removal plan of yours, and how would you enforce it?

            Are you going to put them in jail?

            Are you going to fine them?

            Are you going to sue them?

            Are you going to use warrants to enter private property and remove the cars that they are unwilling to turn in?

            You can’t just look the other way if they fail to cooperate, as that will signal to everyone that the law has no teeth.

            Again, I want specifics. You should outline exactly how far you are willing to go to force those cars off of the road.

          • 0 avatar
            jkross22

            You’re in Seattle. That Des Moines map won’t help you get to the Space Needle.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            I asked you very basic questions about your plan.

            Perhaps you didn’t understand, so I will ask them again.

            What would you do to VW owners who refused to surrender their cars under this mandatory removal plan of yours, and how would you enforce it?

            Are you going to put them in jail?

            Are you going to fine them?

            Are you going to sue them?

            Are you going to use warrants to enter private property and remove the cars that they are unwilling to turn in?

            You can’t just look the other way if they fail to cooperate, as that will signal to everyone that the law has no teeth.

            These points should be very easy for you, the great thinker of the right-wing world, to answer. After all, you’re the one who claimed that getting the cars off of the road should be the end game.

            So be very specific about how we are supposed to achieve your objectives. (These are your objectives, right?) Otherwise, it will be very clear that you were full of crap and just wanted to hear yourself complain (i.e. do what you usually do.)

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            He pretty much pwned you after this: “As an air breather, that’s what I would hope to see.”.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            I suppose that the VW owners who refuse to surrender their cars should be sent to private prisons. Free market and all that.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        @jkross22:

        The article states “…specifically the $4.7 billion set aside in the settlement for environmental mitigation measures”.

        This sounds like actual measures, not just money. I’m OK with that.

        • 0 avatar
          jkross22

          SCE, me too. The fine makes sense as a punitive measure, but bending clear cut rules doesn’t support CARB’s purpose (“To promote and protect public health”) or the EPA’s (“EPA’s purpose is to ensure that: all Americans are protected from significant risks to human health and the environment where they live, learn and work”)…. rules CARB agreed with and the EPA mandated. Based on the article, perhaps EPA ruled that twice the NOx for 470k cars doesn’t represent a significant enough risk to health. But if that’s the case, do the NOx emission level mandates need to be adjusted?

          It seems we have another large corporation paying a fine and not being held accountable to fix the problem they not only created but went out of their way to conceal.

    • 0 avatar
      Reuleaux

      Crushing perfectly good cars ignores the pollution created by building new cars. I’ll admit that I’m not smart enough to make those calculations but I remember back with the 2nd gen Prius came out there were a number of articles written about how keeping your current car was much better for the environment then rushing out to buy a new hybrid.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    Without the cheating-enabled power would TDIs ever have sold much?

    Without cocaine would Robin Williams have had a comedy career?

    See how dat sh1t do you?

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      With all of the necessary emissions gear, the cars would have cost more.

      Ultimately, what this is really about is that VW can’t pass on the cost of cleaner air to many of its customers.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Yes the cars would have cost more to produce but w/o putting it out on the market how does anyone know if that extra cost would have made people stay away from the diesel option.

        It is just as likely if not more so that they feared the performance and MPG loss would scare off customers.

        Reality is that there was a cult of TDI owners who always touted the fact that they could beat the EPA estimates regularly and sometimes significantly. If there wasn’t that wink and a nod regarding the real world MPG would it have developed the following that it had? The reason for the significant difference in the estimates vs real world, the estimates are developed from the vehicle running the emissions test when it was complaint while the real world running was mostly with the emissions systems not active.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          “w/o putting it out on the market how does anyone know if that extra cost would have made people stay away from the diesel option.”

          They can study the market to determine what sales volumes can be expected from various price points.

          But it doesn’t take much analysis to know that (a) raising the prices will drive some customers away (these are not luxury cars that derive some cachet value from charging a premium) and (b) customers will not be excited to pay more in exchange for smog equipment.

  • avatar

    dont they all pollute

  • avatar
    notapreppie

    I dunno…

    Here’s a crazy scenario:

    VW diesels have a bizarre enthusiast following. If VW ends up buying back a lot of diesels and they genuinely do pull the plug on future diesel sales, I could see there being a niche enthusiast market for them in a decade or so (as they start to age out).

    Okay, that’s not very likely but, then again, neither was Trump.

    • 0 avatar
      brettc

      It is a possibility. That’s why I’m keeping mine as long as I can. There’s a slight chance they could be worth more in a private sale by waiting instead of doing the buyback. The buyback would be easier though since there wouldn’t be a Craigslist transaction to deal with.

  • avatar
    markf

    EU has know about the cheating for a while now……

    http://www.spiegel.de/international/business/commission-has-long-known-of-diesel-emissions-manipulation-a-1103249.html

  • avatar
    Detroit-Iron

    “Your Volkswagen Diesel Will Still Be a Polluting Automotive Pariah After Being Fixed”

    Ultimately I think the real problem is the third word in the headline.

  • avatar
    LIKE TTAC.COM ON FACEBOOK

    VW knowingly and intentionally made and sold hundreds of thousands of defective products. They should be recalled and fixed or paid for to the owners’ satisfaction. It toasters or clothing were this defective, the purchaser would get a full refund and the product would end up in the dumpster. Why are these cheating pollution-mobiles any different?

    The long-term result of this will be that VW is now a tainted brand, buyers and owners no longer trust them, and their sales will suffer for at least a generation.

    • 0 avatar
      redmondjp

      You are overblowing this. It is not defective.

      I’m still driving a 1996 Passat TDI that produces orders-of-magnitude more pollution than ANY later-model TDI.

      If they really wanted to clean up the air, they would use the fine money to buy all of the OLD TDIs like mine and crush them. Leaving the new ones on the road isn’t an issue.

  • avatar
    Whittaker

    “VW should be compelled to make owners whole either through compensation or through ensuring adherence for existing emissions compliance that governs all diesel cars. Owner’s choice.”

    Agree.

    And its not that hard to understand.

    • 0 avatar
      tedward

      I don’t think anyone has contested that as an ideal situation. The problems with it are in implementation and political consequence. Basically, how would it be done, who would do it, what penalties for non-compliance, what compliance rate in the first place, what chance of passing judicial review and let’s just add what effect on foreign policy? That’s just top of my head, I’m sure there’s more.

      In a way the solution was actually pretty admirable. The epa is billions richer, the fines are huge and provide future deterrence and the political ramifications that could jeapordize the above are minimized. Smells like politics, which are inevitable.

  • avatar
    jthorner

    I said from day 1 of this scandal that VW would simple not be able to make the cars emissions compliant and maintain fuel economy and system durability.

    If you have one, take the buyback money and run.

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