By on October 25, 2016

money (401(k) 2012/Flickr)

Is there something in diesel fuel that makes Volkswagen owners feel they’re extra, extra special? They’re clearly a hard bunch to please, as the judge overseeing the automaker’s U.S. diesel emissions settlement is tired of hearing their demands for more, more, more.

After a year of wrangling, District Court Judge Charles Breyer has approved the $14.7 billion deal, setting in stone the buyback program and cash settlements to owners and U.S. regulators. Sure, the company’s diesel vehicles pump out up to 40 cars’ worth of pollution each, but how much cash are owners expecting to collect?

Unfortunately for them, they’ll never find out. The buyback and compensation settlement hasn’t changed since the preliminary deal reached in June. A total of 465,000 owners stand to collect the pre-scandal value of their 2.0-liter diesel Volkswagen or Audi, plus an extra $5,100 to $10,000 in make-nice cash on top of that.

Still, many owners had high hopes they could wrestle more out of the apologetic automaker. Breyer’s approval of the deal wasn’t just because he wanted to get some fishing in; rather, he hoped to avoid a long litigation process.

According to Reuters, Breyer had to shoot down requests for boosted cash payouts.

“Given the risks of prolonged litigation, the immediate settlement of this matter is far preferable,” he wrote in his decision, adding that the payouts “adequately and fairly compensates” owners.

The price tag attached to the settlement comes with a wheelbarrow full of asterisks and an equal amount of question marks. On top of the $14.7 billion sum lies fines leveled and those yet to appear. A number of U.S. states charged VW for its environmental and consumer malpractice, adding to the cost, while a big payout to its angry dealer network brings the U.S. price to $16.5 billion. Another 16 states haven’t yet received their pounds of flesh (ideally paid in greenbacks, not cubes of Müller).

Then there’s the sticky subject of the 85,000 3.0-liter diesels sidelined by the scandal. A recent report claims Audi will buy back 25,000 vehicles, but there’s still uncertainty over Volkswagen and Porsche models. While it’s smaller in scope than the 2.0-liter buyback, any 3.0-liter buyback stands to be expensive given the high-end nature of the vehicles involved.

Volkswagen heads back to court on November 3 to deliver updates on that settlement, plus a fix plan that hasn’t yielded any fruit.

[Image: 410(k) 2012/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)]

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37 Comments on “$14.7 Billion: With Volkswagen Deal Done, Judge Wants Owners to Stop Asking for More Dough...”


  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    So, TDI owners get a couple of years of depreciation-free driving and $5-10K for their trouble. Sounds like they were compensated fairly, IMHO.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Agreed. I’ve been tough on VW in my comments, but it’ll be hard for owners to claim they deserve more than that.

    • 0 avatar
      notwhoithink

      That’s incorrect. The buyback value was set at the September 2015 value. If you bought your car in 2009, it depreciated for 6 years before they locked in the value.

    • 0 avatar

      My TDi died in an accident (really, subsequent forklifitng by the yard my insurance company transported the car to-the car was fixable till then. A forklift…really)

      VW is still sending me a check for $2900. I’ve no complaints…found money.

      Oh, and I liked the TDi, too….what would make me pause with the VW/Audi group was the way VW dealt with warranty issues.

  • avatar
    mike1dog

    There was an editorial on what I think was greencarreports where an owner said he wanted to be compensated the original list price and that he would opt out of the settlement and sue if he didn’t get it. His justification was it was fraud, and for example if you bought a house that was full of chinese drywall leaking formaldehyde, you wouldn’t expect to get only partial value back, but what you paid originally because of fraud.

    • 0 avatar
      notwhoithink

      I think that a lot of us owners feel this way, and to be honest, those that opted out and sue individually will likely get it. When you consider that under the fraud laws the minimum VW would have had to pay is buyback at full purchase, plus damages, they’re getting off much cheaper than they could have otherwise. That being said, this was a negotiated settlement that the judge basically flogged both sides into. His primary concern all along as with getting it resolved quickly, and he stated several times that he didn’t want “perfect” to be the enemy of “good”. In other words, he wanted it settled ASAP, wanted to avoid dragging it out, and both sides had better compromise (i.e., settle for less than ideal circumstances).

      I could have opted out and pursued an individual case, but at the end of the day it made more sense to take a settlement at 85% of what I’m entitled to today rather than spend the next two years or more fighting it out to get that last 15%. I’m sure that’s the logic that ALL of the lawyers were banking on, too.

  • avatar
    Big Al From 'Murica

    Yes, because you have to buy a new house to make you whole again and houses typically aren’t a depreciating asset. Also in such a scenario you are the one most likely to suffer adverse health issues as a result of the fraud.

    With the VW on the other hand the rest of us suffer equally since we all have to breathe the air. Additionally you can replace the car with a similar model for the depreciated value. You had a 2012 Jetta so now you go buy a 2012 Toyota instead. This wouldn’t work with partial value on a home. Additionally you could argue that the driver has benefitted for the duration of ownership at the pump at the expense of the rest of us.

    • 0 avatar
      pragmatist

      And considering the small numbers of VW diesels in the overall fleet, the percentage of pollution change is not very large. ( The ‘extra death ‘ numbers are statistical hand waving and have no connection to reality)

    • 0 avatar
      larrystew

      Amen. To add insult to injury (not the best analogy), none of these VW owners had a mechanical defect in their vehicles, at least not one that would render the vehicle undriveable. They’re basically getting their cars paid for because VW made a very stupid decision. Wish I had bought a Jetta diesel about two years ago. I’d have a new roof.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    As a TDI owner I felt the settlement was fair, I got dinged about 3,000 bucks for having a high mileage car but it the real world I would have been dinged also, the sweet deal is you get to drive the car for two years at about 1,000 miles a month and the payment will not go down, the down side is if you total it your out a good amount of cash or if you get a major repair it comes out of your pocket,

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

      “if you get a major repair it comes out of your pocket,”

      Ha, that’d just be the typical luck of a VW owner. Being in the unenviable position of having to spend thousands on repairs to a much-too-new car destined for the crusher.

      I’m sure there’s plenty of happy VW owners out there, but from what I’ve seen, they are a gamble at best.

      Contrary to what Mr. Jack B. thinks, not all cars aside from Toyotas are risky, but there are some where caution is advised. VW is one, FCA is another, and I’m still not convinced of long-term reliability and durability of Hyundai/Kia. Not so long as I keep seeing far too new ones with not too much over 100k with “needs transmission” and “runs but knocks, must be towed” (2007 Sonata, 139k miles, immaculate inside out, have seen several Sonata/Optimas similarly afflicted) going for under $2k.

    • 0 avatar
      MrGrieves

      The big danger is the high pressure fuel pump failing, which will sock you with a $5000-$6000 repair bill. VW will probably cover it under goodwill for the 2009-2012 cars. But if you own anything newer, good luck… they have been claiming that the pump was redesigned multiple times for the 2013 model and should be robust enough to not have high failure rates. The real issue is an overall lousy pump design that has been problematic in every vehicle it’s been used, high quality fuel or not.

      The actual failure rate on these pumps are around 1%, but still, you don’t want to be the dude dealing with it!

  • avatar
    matt3319

    I know VW lied and cheated, that being said are the TDI’s really that bad compared to all the full size truck diesels? I’m guessing not. I had a 2015 Jetta TDI DSG for a few days waiting in my ’17 Passat R-Line to come in. That car was fun to drive. So much low end grunt. I hope VW gets it figured out. I bet a Passat TDi manual is a blast too!

    • 0 avatar
      thattruthguy

      Light trucks meet passenger car standards. Unlike your shitbox.

    • 0 avatar
      thattruthguy

      Light trucks meet passenger car standards. Unlike your special flower.

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      Matt,

      Yes, it is that bad. A single TDI running at 40 times the limit is at least 40 times worse than a diesel pickup that doesn’t cheat.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        The reality is that they emit *up to 40x* the limit, not that they emit that much all of the time. The reality is that the standard is a per mile limit, there is no instantaneous limit so the 40x that is thrown around is pure sensationalism.

      • 0 avatar
        andyinatl

        I think what he’s trying to say is diesel trucks may be regulated differently than passenger diesel cars. I have a hard time believing that any of the PowerStrokes or Cummings diesels in passenger pickups (that’s what they’re used for most of the time) pollute less than a Jetta TDI.

    • 0 avatar
      1998redwagon

      passat tdi manual is a blast to drive. golf tdi 6mt even more so. i have elected to keep my passat. i fret over what the fix will do, hope i get paid before i have to get it fixed.

      • 0 avatar
        Acd

        I bought my Passat in February with the intent to keep driving it until I absolutely had to fix it but the revelations a few months ago about the software update that was actually a change to increase the time the car was in cheat mode because of high warranty costs on emissions related parts convinced me that these engines can never be made to be compliant. I will reluctantly take the buy-back.

        Too bad really because I love the way my car drives and the 44 mpg average is something that no other medium or large sedan can even come close to.

        • 0 avatar

          This is probably what killed my TDi Diesel Particulate Filter. I do a lot of high speed highway work, and tend to run it hard up mountain passes and such. I incorrectly thought this would be good for keeping carbon from building up and keep the DPF clear. There are pages and pages on VW forum about “regeneration cycles” where the system would clean the filter if it filled, so it seemed a good idea to avoid that. I didn’t realize that I was actually frying the whole system. I’d always thought German cars were happier used, and would have problems if you baby them, but since everything south of the turbo on this car was a poorly engineered joke, I was wrong.

  • avatar
    brn

    This entire scandal was about pollution and lying. My neighbor gets a high-mpg car that pollutes my air. My neighbor gets a cash award.

    I’ve been breathing the air. How do we address that???

    No, I don’t expect compensation, but I’m bothered that we’ve lost focus.

    • 0 avatar
      andyinatl

      Ban all UPS/FEDEX trucks too? They’re diesel and they pollute… Unless you live in rural area somewhere, the air we’ve been breathing is polluted with so much worse stuff that i doubt the few TDIs on the road will make a difference either way.

    • 0 avatar
      notwhoithink

      Of the $15 billion in this part of the settlement, just a hair over $10 billion was for owners of the 2.0L TDIs. The remaining $5 billion or so is combined fines and funds that are to be put into clean air initiatives at the federal level and in various states. But there are still outstanding claims for the 3.0L models, and something like 19 states still have claims pending against VW as well. Nobody has lost focus, it’s just that this settlement was the one that got pushed through the fastest in order to provide the speedy relief to the largest group of affected consumers.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      Thanks notwhoithink. That helps.

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    If you’re like me and plan on getting 20 years and 250,000 miles out of a new car, forcing you to trade it in on a new one after only 2 or 3 years is a bad deal. The extra $5k to $10k turns that around.

  • avatar
    April S

    Just thinking out loud here.

    Concerning those wanting to sue in the hope they would get a bigger slice of flesh.

    If one hired an Attorney (especially one hired on a contingency basis) and won wouldn’t they ask and collect somewhere around 40% (from what I’ve experienced 40% seems typical) of any payout? If so it would seem the owner of the car would end up with less money than if they accepted VW’s offer in the first place.

    Also, while it would be a slim possibility the car owner could lose in Court and end up with nothing plus being stuck with an almost worthless car.

    One more thing. If there were too many people asking for too much might VW do the nuclear option and file for bankruptcy. In other words tell them all to pound sand.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      They really do need to find a way to limit attorney payouts. They weren’t the one’s wronged (not specific to the VW case), so they shouldn’t get such a massive percentage of the winnings.

    • 0 avatar
      notwhoithink

      In civil cases like that you get to tack on attorney’s fees to the damages. So instead of suing for full rescission at $30k and the lawyer takes 1/3 of that, it’s full rescission at $30k + all legal fees.

  • avatar
    jpolicke

    The buyout also gives you trade-in value. I can’t get a replacement car of similar age and mileage for the trade-in price.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      It gives you trade in value pre-scandal plus a bonus and you can drive it 1000 mi per month for essentially for up to 3 years after the date the trade in value is based on. So yeah you should be able to make out OK in what you can replace it with.

  • avatar
    TDIGuy

    It’ll be interesting how this now pans out north of the border. VW Canada hasn’t said too much, pending a decision from the US. If you believe the comments made every time VW tries to post something new on FB, many Canadians have parked their TDIs because they don’t want to drive it “because pollution”, or are concerned that if they increase their mileage they won’t get as much money back. (Ironically, nobody seems to have done the math on how much they are spending on alternate transportation).

    However if one were to buy a used TDI now, who would get the notice and payout if there was one?

  • avatar
    blaster668

    West Virginia professor says investigation, lawsuit overblown

    http://www.motortrend.com/news/dieselgate-investigator-speaks-out-on-volkswagen-emissions/

  • avatar
    brettc

    I’m glad that it was finally approved. For the Americans, there’s no more uncertainty (except for whether there will ever be a “fix”).

    I can keep driving my car until 2018 and will still get about $21000 back when I turn it in (I paid about $27000 for it in 2012)

  • avatar
    Jimal

    We were thinking about keeping our 2013 Passat and waiting for the fix, but then I realized that 1) people who do that don’t see dime one until the fix is approved and applied to your vehicle. Not that big of a deal, but then 2) there is no timetable as to when the car’s Takata airbag will be replaced.

    So I have the opportunity to get rid of a car with a defective safety device for much more than I would have gotten in trade or private sale? Sign me up.

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