You May Be Within Your Legal Rights to Strip Your Buyback Volkswagen Before Handing It Over
Volkswagen and Audi have begun buying back the thousands of 2.0-liter diesel cars sold involved in its emissions cheating scandal. The deal requires the company to offer buybacks to the 475,000 affected owners. However, the settlement does not carefully outline what condition those returned vehicles have to be in.
Some owners are taking that inch for the full mile and stripping their VWs down before returning them to the company to get their big fat check.
The qualifications specified in the EPA’s Partial Consent Decree aren’t wildly specific, stating that vehicle only need to be “operable” to maintain eligibility or for the buyback. Document 1973-1 only offers the clarification that an operable vehicle means one driven under the power of its own 2.0-liter TDI. Returned vehicles also may not possess a branded title of “Assembled,” “Dismantled,” “Flood,” “Junk,” “Rebuilt,” “Reconstructed,” or “Salvaged” as of September 18, 2015.
Beyond that, it seems like you may be within your legal rights to hack off every non-essential piece of your TDI and return it with confidence. While it be supremely dickish to do so, it’s hard to feel guilty when the car is likely to suffer a similar fate in the hands of Volkswagen anyway.
Green Car Reports says most of the diesels will end up getting scrapped since it’s not cost-effective to repair and redistribute them — especially the older models. Still, if VW wants to spend the money, it is within its rights to export the cars for non-U.S. resale or fix them and place the units back on the American market as used vehicles.
A few indignant buyback owners on Reddit have discussed the morality and legality of removing choice pieces from their car, while a couple of posters have even confirmed that VW’s still handed them a check after returning an incomplete car. Jalopnik spoke to one user who removed the front fascia from his damaged Golf without VW making a stink. “Yes the front end I took off for my friend and then the back was in an accident,” Tacoboutnachos committed over Reddit.
He said he was still paid for his vehicle without issue, claiming that the VIN was the only part of the car inspected. That bodes well for anyone thinking about removing quarter panels or a hood.
While we can’t say for certain if Volkswagen will accept a buyback vehicle after you’ve removed several hundred pounds of it with a sawzall, there is definitely a chance that they might be legally obligated to. You can at least remove the floor mats, confident that you’ve stuck it to the man without him being able to do a damn thing about it.
Besides, if you did end up popping out your Jetta’s headlights or radio, what’s the worst thing Volkswagen could do about it? Accuse you of cheating the system?
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- Cprescott My current ride is paid off in December. Hopefully there will be no more car payments ever. So expensive these days and you have to really pay attention as there are so few actual cars being made in the affordable range.
- Jeff S Price seems high but then after Covid it probably isn't. Does appear that the car is complete and is restorable. Agree the seller will get at least that price and possibly more. I remember these early Mustangs well when I was growing up and remember the fastbacks were released in August of 64 as a 65 where the regular hardtop and convertible were released as 64 1/2s April 17, 1964. Brylcreem gave one of these original Mustangs away in a mail in contest.
- Cprescott I can't believe how GM ruined the Camaro with this putrid platform. Cramped, awful interiors and visibility with exterior changes that became even uglier and tacky. Heir Yutz is so proud of it too! The only vehicle in modern history to take so long from concept to production other than the Ford Bronco. It seems it was announced for four years before we saw the hideous work in production.
- Cprescott The good news is replacement sheet metal and parts are easily found. Would make a nice restoration project even if it is not the most desirable model. I love black cars with red interiors!
- Cprescott Jim Farley and the Fire Starters. Perhaps he should throw his wig into the fire!
A correction to your article. You wrote: "...it is within its rights to export the cars for non-U.S. resale..." That is incorrect. The decree clearly states, in section 7.2.3: "Settling Defendants may not export or arrange for the export of 2.0 Liter Subject Vehicles, unless such vehicle has been modified in accordance with the applicable Approved Emissions Modification pursuant to the terms of Appendix B of this Consent Decree." This means that until/unless these cars have the approved "fix" (assuming VW even comes up with one) the vehicles cannot even be exported to a location where they currently meet the emissions regulations. At least they backed off the original decree that stated all non-fixed cars had to be made inoperable by having a 3" hole punched in the engine block and the frame had to be sliced in two places...now they just require removal of the ECU, and "...in no event may the ECU, diesel oxidation catalyst, or diesel particulate filter be salvaged, resold, or exported."
It's pretty clear that VW has no interest in these vehicles. On their settlement web site, under the FAQ section, is this Q&A: Q: "My vehicle has been in an accident, and my Insurance Company wants to "Total" it. What Should I do?" A: "As long as your vehicle is operable under its own power, and you still have the title to it, or, if the car is financed, your lender holds the title, you can schedule a Buyback and drive it to your preferred Volkswagen or Audi Dealer." I find little moral/ethical dilemma in stripping the car after reading that.