By on August 30, 2016

2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI (3 of 8)

Faced with the option of waiting to see if their cars can be fixed or accepting a hefty cash payout, diesel Volkswagen owners are opting to take the money and run.

Once-fierce loyalty to the dirty “clean diesels” seems to have evaporated, as most owners who’ve registered for the settlement want the automaker to buy back their car, Automotive News reports.

About 475,000 2009–2016 2.0-liter Volkswagen diesel models in the U.S. are affected by the ongoing emissions scandal. As part of a settlement reached in June, owners can opt for a buyback or have their vehicle fixed at no cost, while accepting a cash payment of $5,100.

The problem with the fix route is no actual, approved fix exists — at least, not yet. Bringing the polluting vehicles into compliance would require modifications as well as a software update, and could leave the vehicles underpowered and thirsty. There’s also the chance that they’ll still be dirty.

It’s no wonder that owners are choosing to grab Volkswagen’s cash with both hands. According to the report, about 210,000 owners and lessees have so far registered for the settlement, just under half of the total tally.

That’s fine for the automaker, as the settlement requires the company to remove 85 percent of the affected vehicles from the road.

The number of owners enrolled in the buyback program was confirmed by lead plaintiff’s attorney Elizabeth Cabraser. She stated that some owners could change their minds on the buyback if government regulators approve a fix for the 2.0-liter models.

[Image: © 2015 Mark Stevenson/The Truth About Cars]

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53 Comments on “Volkswagen TDI Owners to Automaker: ‘Nah, We’ll Take the Moolah’...”


  • avatar
    RedRocket

    It would be interesting to know how many of those people who are wanting the settlement cash are arbitrageurs who jumped in when they realized there were many thousands to be made in the difference between the depressed market value of TDI VWs a few months ago and the amount that VW would buy it back for according to the settlement terms. There has been an active secondary market for TDIs that suddenly sprang up as a result. Some are only in it for the quick cash, while others realize they can drive a car for the next year or so and still sell it back to VW for the amount laid out in the settlement formula. Making money on the value of your car while you drive it is a rare thing.

    • 0 avatar
      dwbf11

      As I recall, to participate in the settlement required that you owned the car since before the scandal even broke, to prevent exactly this.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

        ^ exactly. I’d love to see some scandalous person going out and buying loads of TDIs expecting a big payout from VW, only to be stuck with a bunch of lame-duck, worthless cars. Lol. Even better if its a BHPH lot that regularly screws over customers by selling them a $3,000 Kia for $8k at 22% interest.

        • 0 avatar
          RedRocket

          Incorrect. The sharpies found the loopholes that allow them to make a killing on this by buying up the used TDIs that were gathering dust despite slashed prices. Try buying a 2 to 4 year old TDI off a used lot anywhere right now. The few that are left have had their prices jump because most have already been snagged.

          • 0 avatar
            SoCalMikester

            just like the fine folks that bought nintendo stock after the pokemon GO craze, only to find nintendo never made the game, but licensed the name.

            still a nice jump

      • 0 avatar
        notwhoithink

        There were no such provisions. There are a confusing number of key dates involved, but there is/was a window during which you could buy the car and still be eligible for the buyback. The main concern was that if you bought or sold the car after the news of the scandal broke (Sept 18, 2015) then you were only eligible for half of the “extra compensation” (aka, the minimum $5100) but were still entitled to the buyback amount.

    • 0 avatar
      jpolicke

      I got the settlement booklet in the mail last week (even though I traded my Jetta in 12/2012). One stipulation is you have to drive the car in. No buybacks for cars delivered on a trailer. So, waiting until a fix is approved which could come in 2018 is a risky strategy. You are betting that your DSG transmission and your HPFP will last at least another 16 months. A failure of either would negate your compensation package.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Wasn’t there a stop-sale order after the scandal broke, though?

      • 0 avatar
        notwhoithink

        The stop-sale order was from VW to their dealer network and only applied to new and CPO TDIs, presumably due to warranty issues. Used cars could still be sold by the VW franchised dealers (though with a dieselgate disclaimer typically being signed by the buyer), and third party dealers and independent owners were free to buy and sell as they pleased.

      • 0 avatar
        KevinC

        There are a buttload of brand new ’15 Golf TDIs for sale all over the country right now. Local dealers here in Phx have plenty, and a quick cars.com search shows them all over. They were definitely off the market for a while, but at some point, they have hit the market again. Seems weird.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    Where do the buyback cars go? Crusher, shipped to 3rd world countries, or modded to comply with emissions and resold in NA?

    • 0 avatar
      kefkafloyd

      Pretty sure they have to go to the crusher based on similar previous problems but I don’t know exactly in this situation.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Crusher. You can’t export a non-compliant car, IIRC.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        No law against stripping out parts and selling them, though…at least that’s what I’d think.

        • 0 avatar
          notwhoithink

          Correct. They can be scrapped or recycled. The engine and ECU can’t be re-used or re-sold. If VW can get the EPA to approve a fix to the cheating diesels then they can be fixed and dealers will be able to buy them from VW and re-sell them to consumers. Otherwise they will have to be scrapped/recycled. They are specifically prohibited from exporting the vehicles unless they are made compliant first.

          • 0 avatar
            87 Morgan

            I am certain the scrap yards will be stripping these down. Good news for current VW non TDI owners as parts prices on RockAuto should drop. Insurance co’s will love it as their will now be, call 350k units, available with color matched pieces for crash parts. Oh you wrecked Monday and need a front fascia, hood and fender you say in Silver? We can have it to you by Friday and the car ready for delivery back to the customer on Saturday. Body shops will love this throughput!

  • avatar
    s_a_p

    LS Swap all the TDIs

  • avatar
    vvk

    Money talks…

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Darn right. This really speaks to the low confidence *their own customers* have about the mythical fix, and the timeline to pull it off.

    Buyback and crushing is the only route that should be on the table. Actually repairing these cars will be a logistics nightmare for a LONG time, and then it exposes VW to the inevitable road tests and criticisms by car publications.

    Fixing the cars is a total lose-lose for VW. If the cars remain driveable and thrifty, then VW looks stupid for not having done the right thing to begin with, and for not fixing them sooner. If the cars become duds after they’re fixed, then VW is out a lot of time and money, with branded cars in the field that nobody wants.

    Furthermore, any TDI owner thinking they’re going to skip this recall is gambling, hoping their DOT doesn’t quarantine their VIN if their car remains non-compliant.

  • avatar
    threeer

    There should be a firesale on consumable parts that aren’t part of the drivetrain. Think of all of those tires, rims, seats, stereos, etc…simply being crushed because of the engine. What. A. Waste.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I’d have to think they’ll be looking to strip whatever parts they can and sell them off.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Think of Cash for Clunkers in 2009; all those vehicles were crushed. The crushers weren’t allowed to profit from that government program, out of fear of corruption, double-dipping, etc.

      • 0 avatar
        notwhoithink

        This isn’t clash for clunkers. VW is buying back the cars. They’re not going to want to engage in goofy shenanigans that allow them to buy them back a second time because that only costs them money. They are going to be moved to storage until they are either a) fixed and re-sold, or b) recycled. So long as the engine, ECU, and emissions system are not recycled VW is free to do whatever they want with the rest.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    They probably figured out that the emissions folks weren’t going to let them drive dirty forever, and decided it was time to cash out. That’s what I’d do.

    And how much you want to bet VW will do big time incentives for owner loyalty on a non diesel? Between this and the cash payouts to dealers, they might come out pretty well on this.

    • 0 avatar
      notwhoithink

      “And how much you want to bet VW will do big time incentives for owner loyalty on a non diesel?”

      Most of us TDI are owners are wondering the same thing. Nothing has been announced, and nothing has leaked. Those of us who have reached out to dealers have typically heard the BS response “you’re already getting a hell of a deal on your trade in, why do you think you’re entitled to anything else?” But it’s worth noting that the terms of the consent decree and settlement specifically call out that neither VW nor dealers are precluded from being able to offer TDI owners special deals on a new VW.

      Personally, I’m pretty well turned off of VW by the scandal, despite really liking the Passat. I’ve decided that if they offered me a sweet deal on a new gasoline Passat that I’d strongly consider buying one, but if they didn’t throw TDI owners a bone to “keep us in the family” then I’m going to go with brand (most likely Mazda6 or a Fusion Titanium). The real killer is that this is currently their end of model year sales month, and they’re advertising 2016 Passats at $4k-$6k below MSRP (and Ford and Mazda are offering nice discounts, too) along with 0% financing. I’d be jumping on a deal already if I weren’t still stuck waiting on the buyback, and of course by the time I can get the buyback processed all of the 2016 MYs will be gone and I’ll be looking at paying thousands more for the same car, just on model year newer. That wouldn’t be so annoying if I hadn’t been in the exact same situation last September as well when I was originally looking to buy a new car.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

        Look at it this way, by the time you’re ready to buy, the Fusion Sport will be out, and maybe Mazda will have wised up and dropped a Turbo in the 6. Two very interesting choices, and probably better long-term than any VW.

        • 0 avatar
          notwhoithink

          The Fusion Sport is already out, and has been for months. I’ve seen them on dealer lots. As much fun as it might be, the $33k base price is a bit of a stripped down model. If you want all of the bells and whistles you’ll be knocking on $39k. I’d much rather buy a well-equipped Titanium for $30k and “make do” with the newly revamped 2.0L turbo I4.

          And Mazda isn’t putting a turbo in the 6 for 2017, we’ve already seen the announcements for what’s coming in the 2017 model and there are no changes to the engine. If we’re very, very lucky then Mazda may choose to do a 2017.5 update (which I find unlikely) that would have the turbo option, but I don’t expect there to be a realistic chance to have a turbo option until the 2018 MY, which won’t hit until at least a year from now.

          Really, the only thing that I have to wait on is the hope of an improved Mazda6 powerplant over a year from now, and the MY2017 closeout sales a year from now. Neither fits well with a buyback date in November of this year, and I’d rather not roll the dice on totaling my TDI between now and then and missing out on the buyback.

          • 0 avatar
            Adam Tonge

            It hasn’t really been out for months. Maybe in theory, but not in reality. They started building them less than two months ago, and until recently, most Sports were reserved for someone. Right now, AutoTrader shows 733 Fusion Sports nationwide (140 are within 50 miles of me!). Many (most) of those are dealer/customer orders and are not actually on the lot.

            I’m going to test drive one this week.

            And 2.7T with no options > 2.0T with all the options

      • 0 avatar
        1998redwagon

        @notwhatithink i too have a passat tdi and i too think about mazda6 and ford fusion – we must be lost brothers.

        i received an email this weekend from the vw dealer where i purchased the car new. come in and take advantage of the year end clearance event buy new and leave your old at the dealership.

        what im saying is that creative dealers who know that the tdi has a ‘definite’ value can work with you, assuming you fill in your info at the tdi settlement webpage.

        i thought this was a pretty good solution to those who just want to be done with their vehicle, were willing to consider a vw gasser, and did not want to wait until it was time to return their car.

  • avatar
    klossfam

    So pissed I didn’t pull the trigger on a TDI circa 2010-2012. We have a 2011 Tiguan and a 2011 GTI and I watch my neighbor Al driving his 2010 TDI Jetta Wolfsburg Edition for the last 6 years and 150K+ miles and literally making money (or at least having it for what will amount to nothing). Getting 50 mpg on road trips…Any guilt from the pollution he caused literally goes ‘up in smoke’ (pun intended). Lucky bastard…

  • avatar
    Cabriolet

    I would not worry about buying any 2016 new car. Every dealer in my area selling every brand in the book are overloaded with cars. In my area Belmont race track must have at least 2,500 to 3,500 cars parked in their parking lot for the last 6 months. very brand you can think of and when Toyota is placing $4,000.00 on the hood of a Camry you should have no problem finding the car you want. And don’t forget the 0% financing.

    • 0 avatar
      notwhoithink

      @Cabriolet, you’re forgetting that I’m not buying this month. The earliest buyback date from VW (according to their web site) is November 1st. How many of those 2016 MY cars are going to be left after the next two months when every dealer in the country has $4k or more on the hood? Not very many. Certainly not in a variety of trim and color combinations. And that’s assuming that I get a November 1st buyback. Once you’ve officially registered for the buyback they have to give you an appointment within 90 days. So I could click “submit” on October 18th once the settlement has final approval and still not get my buyback until mid-January.

  • avatar
    jacob_coulter

    Most VW models have terrible resale anyway (even before the Diesel scandal) so it seems an easy call to make for most consumers if manufacturers are handing out extra money to take the car back.

    I wouldn’t read too much into what people think of VW as a brand if owners are making this decision, even if they loved their ownership experience, take the money and buy a new one without looming legal issues.

    • 0 avatar
      JSF22

      I think this is right. It wouldn’t matter to me how much I liked my car. If someone offered me what it was worth a year ago, basically regardless of condition, I wouldn’t think very long before I asked where to sign.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    Any word on the 3.0 liter V6 diesels?

    • 0 avatar
      Lack Thereof

      nope.

    • 0 avatar
      notwhoithink

      The judge has ordered them to pursue a dual path strategy. VW and the Feds had previously been focused on developing a fix, but the judge wants a backup plan for a buyback similar to the 2.0 in case they cannot get the fix that VW is currently working on approved. VW is supposed to submit their proposed fix to the EPA on October 24th, and there’s another status conference on November 3rd where the judge wants to hear the EPA’s take on the proposed fix as well as how much progress they have made on “plan b” in the event that the proposed fix is not acceptable.

  • avatar
    yankinwaoz

    I own a 2012 Passat TDi. The current reality is that I am going to have to return the car to VW within the next 18 months. As mentioned, there is no fix option at this time. And even if there was, I wouldn’t trust it.

    I do not expect California to allow me to register it past 2018 without a fix. So if I declined both the buyback and a fix, I would have a car that I can’t legally drive.

    I have seriously considered holding on until the last possible month (Sept 2018) in order to milk as much value out of my Passat as I can.

    However, there is risk to that strategy. If the car gets stolen, totaled, or has a catastrophic mechanical failure between now and Sept. 2018 then I get nothing. (Well, I get what my insurance thinks the car is worth, which is nothing). The deal with VW requires me to deliver them the Passat under its own power.

    Its a great car. Never had a problem. But I have over 100K on her now. I read about failures of the turbo and injection systems. A failure there would kill the deal.

    So I have reached the conclusion that it would be most prudent to sell it back to VW at the earliest time possible and buy a new/newer replacement that is under warranty. The price they are giving me is more than fair, if I had wanted to sell it today for some other reason.

    I’m not happy about this. I had planned to keep my dear Passat for 10 years. But that is the way it turned out. I’ve had a good 4.5 years of service with this baby. So I can’t complain too much.

    I do plan to sell or give away my nice trunk liner and mats to a gas Passat owner before I take her to VW for her final drive. I’ll be dammed if VW gets those back from me.

    • 0 avatar
      1998redwagon

      you are running a risk in not returning it. keep in mind that the turbo is now warranted for 120k miles. by the agreement with the feds vw has to legally deal with 85% of the 480,000+ cars either by accepting a return or fixing them. my guess is that if 85% of the owners agree to a return then the fix is not really coming.

      i realize that a fix for 49 states is not a fix for CA and i don’t know how that would play out. if no fix was offered and vw met their 85% obligation would a state have to let you register it? i dont know. in mn where i live there is no tailpipe test before registration. there is no cel check before registration so i have a bit more freedom than others, esp if i do not go to the dealer for any repairs.

      i’ve elected to keep the car and take some cash only because my wife needs a new car and we do not want to have to be paying on 2 cars at the same time. some of the money i receive will go to her down payment.

  • avatar

    I’d get out. I loved my 2012 TDi up till it puked a diesel particulate filter, for $2600 at 83k. Since I was 3k out of warranty, they picked up half. Just prior to that, the exhaust flapper valve died but was covered by a 120k extended warranty.

    The emissions system is not only a fraud, it is a poorly engineered fraud-although it might be nice with a tune and test pipe, if you don’t care about the air.

    Take the money and run. It only hurts because the car drove so nicely, the interior was comfortable, and massive torque and 39 mpg was sweet.

    Be happy. Usually a lemon is something you are stuck with, but here you actually get compensation.

    • 0 avatar
      1998redwagon

      only 39? my passat (granted with 6mt) is turning in 48-54mpg on rural highways @ 62mph. those kind of numbers are mesmerizing.

      i live in rural american and travel quite a bit for work. i bought the car for its mileage and size and the fact that i could find it in a manual with a light colored interior. the only way to have made it better was if it had been available in a wagon. life is full of compromises.

  • avatar
    don1967

    How delicious that all those pious folks who chose “Clean Diesel” as a means of saving the planet are now some of the worst polluters, and are choosing money over repairs.

    It just goes to show how any religion can be corrupted.

    • 0 avatar
      2manycars

      “Worst polluters?” Hardly. These cars are still quite clean and have harmed nobody. The solution to the non-problem that these cars present will likely release more pollutants than simply keeping the cars on the road.

      As far as I am concerned Volkswagen did nothing wrong. They simply found a way to deliver to their customers diesel cars that had good performance and economy in the face of oppressive regulations, and they were still clean enough. Volkswagen’s only sin was to immediately cave rather than fighting the eco-nazis.

      http://ericpetersautos.com/2016/08/31/cashing-out/

  • avatar
    brettc

    I’m taking my $22K and most likely *not* buying another VW, unless they give me a sweet deal on a GTI or a new Golf wagon. My biggest turn off with the new Golf models is the fact that they now have red turn signals, not amber like my 2012. If I want amber signals I have to spend $1000 to get euro tail lights and recode them, etc. What a stupid decision (maybe even dumber than rigging emissions).

    I’ll likely take my money and buy a 2017 C-Max on the used market when they become available in late 2017 or early 2018 as the 2017 C-Max is finally getting LED DRLs and projector headlights. Most Ford products (especially the Euro sourced models) have amber turn signals, and they’re not VWs. So that’s good enough for me.

    • 0 avatar
      HotPotato

      What is UP with Euro automakers regressing to installing red blinkers, which are harder to distinguish from other rear lamps and respond correctly to? They have a superior solution in their traditional amber turn signals, and now they choose not to use them because fashion? It’s utterly flipping idiotic. The VW Tiguan takes the bozo prize, with tail lights with amber segments that are NOT USED.

      Supposedly this is because the Euro fashion now is super-thin LED turn signal segments that don’t meet US minimum size requirements. Well, guys, ask for an update to the regs, or make a compliant lamp, or reconfigure the housing for the US market like you damn well have to anyway to make it all red, or ask yourself how stupid you’re being by not installing the instant-on long-life LEDs on the brake lights instead, where they would actually have tangible benefits, whereas LEDs do not help with visibility in a flashing light because the light doesn’t persist. Ugh. Fashion-driven idiocy.

      • 0 avatar
        Trucky McTruckface

        My guess is it’s all about cost. Cheaper lenses, cheaper bulbs. If they can dumb down the taillights into a single combination incandescent bulb, even better. And VW’s activities in recent years have shown just how shamelessly cheap they are.

        This is nothing new, either. Ford infamously decontented the hell out of their cars in ’97-’98 and one of the most obvious changes was the deletion of amber turn signals from most models, even on the ancient Aerostar for its final model year.

  • avatar
    CentralMassDad

    I think there is a little selection bias in the numbers, so I’m not sure if these numbers really reveal “lack of confidence in the company” etc.

    I have a Jetta Sportwagen TDI, which I love. It might be my favorite car that I have ever had. Averages around 39-40mpg, even fully loaded, and is plenty powerful for me. I like the gas mileage because I drive it a ton, and I think eventually gas will be pricey again. Also, I like the wagon part, because.

    So that leaves me torn. Someone is offering to give me more than the car is worth, but I cannot replace it with anything that does what it does. TDI forums are filled with people pooh-poohing the effeciency–plenty of gas cars can get that mileage. But I don’t want a Honda Civic sedan. It turns out to be hard to find something that is big enough for a family, efficient, and comfortable. Never mind all that plus a 6-speed manual transmission.

    So for the moment I am hanging back to determine whether there is actually a fix, and if so, what bad things it does, before deciding. I suppose that others who are considering keeping their cars are doing the same. Meanwhile, the entire cohort that wants out of the car ASAP registered right away. So the majority of people registering are those who want the buyback.

  • avatar
    Jimal

    As of the last time my wife and I discussed what to do with her 2013 Passat TDI, we decided to take the smaller payout and keep the car, for a couple reasons.

    1. If you’re going to get your money’s worth out of one of these cars, you have to run it into the ground. Like 200,000 – 300,000 miles. Resale was of little concern to us for this reason.

    2. I’ve seen little to indicate VW is going to be able to come up with a workable solution to fix these cars. So either we get the smaller payoff and have to make no changes to the car, or sometime down the road VW and the regulators concede that there won’t be a fix, and drop it… or offer a secondary buyout.

    Either way, we’ll use the payout – when it gets here – to help pay off the 2009 Pontiac G8 GT I picked up last week, early.

  • avatar
    Mike-NB

    Meanwhile, north of the border in Canada there is … nothing. The VW site posts links to the US information but any settlement talks are under a publication ban so we Canadian TDI owners can only look at our US cousins with envy.

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