By on December 14, 2016

2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI

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?

[Image: Volkswagen]

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64 Comments on “You May Be Within Your Legal Rights to Strip Your Buyback Volkswagen Before Handing it Over...”


  • avatar
    Corey Lewis

    Just think, as you removed more parts your VW would get ever-more reliable!

    • 0 avatar
      EAF

      Lmao @ Corey !

      As I read the article what went through my mind was buying a Golf TDI at a SIGNIFICANT disount, then, swapping in something cheap yet reliable and OBD2 compliant.

      Maybe something early so that dealing with canbus and immobilizers is made simple. How about a Honda H22 with a B16A2 gearbox? 4G63T? SR20DET?

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        you think that mish-mash would be “reliable?”

      • 0 avatar
        brettc

        I wish VW would offer some sort of package to install a 1.4 or a 1.8 TSI in existing TDIs. I might be tempted to keep mine if they’d do that for free and offer a warranty on the new powertrain. But oh well, I have to get a new car instead (terrible first world problems)

        • 0 avatar
          karonetwentyc

          Having recently had a Passat with the 1.8 TSi motor as a rental, I’d really rather keep our TDi.

          The 1.8 felt both rougher and simultaneously strained when pushed. About the best description I can apply to it is that it felt like the sort of thing that would have been under the hood of a late-’80s / early-’90s Toyota or Mitsubishi – not particularly awful, but you were certainly aware of the fact that it was there and having to work to move the Passat’s heft.

          The DSG’s transmission logic in the TSi compared to the TDi is best described as busier, but not always smart. To be fair, it doesn’t have the flat torque curve of the TDi to work with in the TSi – but even mild inclines caused it to occasionally play the game of ‘pick a gear, any gear at all’, and even then it would sometimes take what felt like an eternity to do so.

          I’m just disappointed that one of VW’s responses to the situation was to essentially abandon diesel for North America altogether. Had they not done that, we likely would have cashed out the Jetta in the buyback and immediately put that payout into a new, EPA-compliant, kittens-and-rainbows-farting Jetta TDi… But as it stands, there’s just nothing on the VW dealer’s lot that we want to replace the current one with, and there doesn’t look to be anything in the pipeline that will suit.

  • avatar
    threeer

    I can see folks maybe taking the nicer rims and tires and placing steelies on them before turning them in. Car is still “operable.”

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

      Steelies? How ’bout four doughnuts? A step stool to sit on, no seats, no hood, no bumpers, no doors no declid, no front header panel/lights, lol keep those who ended up with a gasoline VW on the road with cheap (by comparison I’m sure) parts.

      I took the wheels off an Explorer damaged by a fire that the insurance totalled. Tow truck driver said nothing when he came to get it. Had two rusty Ranger wheels with bald tires held on by two lug nuts each (this was an ’02 with hub centric wheels, so the old Ranger junk wheels would not have worked for actually driving, they were just enough to make it roll up onto the flatbed).

    • 0 avatar
      fiasco

      I sold some 16″ VW wheels to somebody who fully intended to keep the 17″ wheels at buyback time!

  • avatar

    Personally, I wouldn’t want to jeopardize the buy back money by hacking off parts of the vehicle. Keeping rims could make sense – not a factory radio though. ‘Twill be interesting to see what kind of hi-jinx folks pull and still get the dough.

    • 0 avatar
      notwhoithink

      The problem, particularly with the factory radio, is that some parts of the car are factors into how much money you will receive for the buyback. If your car has a a navigation system, power driver’s seat, Fender “premium” audio system, or power sunroof then the amount of your buyback was increased. If they are paying you extra for certain options then I would fully expect that they would require those optional items to be intact, or at least not stripped from the vehicle.

      Then there’s the whole option of dealing in good faith/bad faith. If you return a car that’s banged up a bit from an accident then you are still dealing in good faith. If you strip the car before returning it in order to cost VW more money or make more money for yourself then you are dealing in bad faith. That fact may supersede any lack of specificity in the settlement agreement regarding condition.

      Personally, it’s not worth the hassle to strip the car and try to sell the parts if there’s any reasonable chance that it could cause issues with a buyback. I might even be within my legal rights to strip it, but if VW wants to play hardball who really wants to hire a lawyer to fight it out with them for a year or more? We’ve waited long enough already, let’s just be done with it.

    • 0 avatar
      johnds

      It might be easy to get a cheaper stereo to replace a fancier version that still looks factory.

  • avatar
    April S

    To me it doesn’t seem worth the trouble. Most removeable items (front fenders, headlight and taillight assemblies, outside mirrors, airbags, bumper skins) would make the car illegal to drive on public roads and jeopardise the buy back. Plus as THX1136 mentioned, why take the chance.

    Plus it seems rather childish.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

      Honestly, I’d probably swap the alloys to someone for some junk steelies, but aside from joking around above, i don’t think I’d totally strip it.

      • 0 avatar
        brettc

        I’m planning on giving it back with winter rims and keeping the alloys and selling them.

        I’ll also be taking the cargo blocks because they are useful to keep stuff from moving around. My new car will have Weathertech mats, so they can have the monster mats which will be well worn by the 6 year mark.

    • 0 avatar
      la834

      “Most removeable items (front fenders, headlight and taillight assemblies, outside mirrors, airbags, bumper skins) would make the car illegal to drive on public roads and jeopardise the buy back.”

      I for one would swap out the HID/xenon headlights if my TDI had the lighting package and replace them with halogens from a junkyard car if VW insists on having lights. You can’t get these lights as an option anymore on many 2017 Golf variants, so the HID lights from the TD( can rectify that (the swap is tedious from what I understand though).

      • 0 avatar
        April S

        I would think swapping headlights would be OK. After all there will be functional headlights so the car would be considered street legal.

        If the replaced lights fit the same as the originals I would probably go for it.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    I’d hate for somebody to try this, and then VW decide right before they cut the check that they aren’t going to accept cars where the owner has obviously stripped usable parts.

    In any case, yeah, VW screwed up royally here, but trying to extract a couple hundred for some used parts (the market for which I suspect is about to crash) is indeed an dick-ish move. The settlement amounts are meant to compensate you (and then some!) for the value of your car right before the scandal broke. It just ain’t right to artificially decrease the value of the car well below that assumption.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    If these vehicles being turned in at dealers, the dealers probably don’t give a rip (other than getting whatever the VW payment is for the dealer processing labor rendered).

    Does anyone know what the plan is on the VW corporate side? Do they plan to set up the world’s largest one-make junkyard somewhere in the US?

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

      Probably crushed. The parts will likely go to waste. I seriously doubt VW plans to get in the used parts business.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Making needless waste is Green don’tcha know.

        • 0 avatar
          Superdessucke

          The smartness here is palatable. I know a lot of you work for the Auto Industry and I don’t feel worthy. This said, this seems stupid to me. They’re probably going to create a lot of waste and pollution destroying the cars and making new ones to replace them. They’ll also be reselling the ones that you guys don’t strip to the bone and they’ll soon be puking smog into our air from somewhere else in the world. This will add up to more pollution and waste than if they would have just left them alone to finish out their life cycle.

    • 0 avatar
      notwhoithink

      The dealers are only involved as being a location for the buyback to take place and for the cars to be stored until VW picks them up. Nobody from the dealer is involved in processing the actual buyback.

      The VW plan is to apply an EPA-approved fix to any model that has one available and offer it for sale to dealers to be sold to the public. If there is not an EPA-approved fix available (and to date there are none) then the engine/ECU/emissions system has to be rendered non-functional and the rest of the car can be recycled.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    I was under the impression that VW was NOT legally allowed to ship the cars out of the country for resale. I thought I read that they have to either fix them or scrap them. Is that not correct?

    I work with someone going through the buyback process. He was concerned that the fact that a huge tree limb had fallen on the car earlier this year and required the roof to be replaced would affect the value. Good to know he doesn’t have to worry.

    I also have a coworker who is looking for a leather steering wheel for his Golf…. hmmmm.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      It’s my understanding that Volkswagen must remove the ECU with the cheating software from the cars they buy back. After that, Volkswagen may either sell them as scrap or repair the cars so they meet US emission standards. In theory, if Volkswagen has a way to make any of these TDI cars really meet EPA emissions regulations with an ECU upgrade, they could export those models with the EPA-compliant software update and then look the other way when customers in the 3rd world change the ECU software back. As a practical matter Volkswagen probably won’t risk letting any of those cars come back to the US. Expect lots of junkyard Jetta TDIs with the ECU and non-compliant emissions control parts removed.

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      So the buyback process is going on now? I see one or two recent TDIs a week, while driving to and from work, and when I see them, I think, “So are you turning yours in, just getting a check, or…?”

      • 0 avatar
        notwhoithink

        The first buyback appointments were in early December. They’ve been slowly ramping up since then, but a lot of us who had approved paperwork in late October/early November are just now being allowed to schedule our appointments, and as of this morning they were scheduling them about a month out.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        Yup! “Dead car driving!”

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      They can’t legally sell EPA-approved VINs outside of the US without making them compliant. Volvo Trucks (different company from Volvo Cars) got hit with a fine last year for doing that, and that was for trucks that had never been on US soil.
      It may seem harsh at first, but it makes sense if you think it through. VW has a presence in the US; they would be liable if they misrepresented EPA certification outside of the US. Just like they would be liable if they sold counterfeit FDA-approved drugs outside of the US.

    • 0 avatar
      TheDoctorIsOut

      The final checklist I received states the vehicle has to be able to arrive at the dealership under its own power and I hand over all the keys. And that seemed to be about it. The value of the buyback is for some vehicles in part based on options like the panorama sunroof or the nav but why would you remove those anyway even if you could? The RNS410 was on the edge of being outdated even when new. I’ll be glad enough to pick up my check this weekend and put all the drama behind me.

  • avatar

    I got it, take the engines out, put em in go kart frames, build a VW diesel racing series!

    • 0 avatar
      bunkie

      How much does the TDI engine weigh? And where is the torque peak? The crazy part of my brain is imagining it being used in experimental aviation. If the torque peak is low enough in the RPM range, it wouldn’t even need a PSRU (prop speed reduction unit). If it weighs less than 200lbs, it might be workable…

  • avatar
    B_C_R

    Stupid question here. Can you opt to keep your TDI VW if you don’t take the settlement payout?

    • 0 avatar
      jpolicke

      You can certainly get a couple years more out of it on the pretext that you’re waiting for the “fix” to bring the car into compliance. Which will likely come some Sunday in the middle of the week. But the option to sell or fix runs out Sept 1, 2018. After that it all depends on the requirements of your particular state. If you live in CA, I expect they’ll take a hard line on the basis that you had an opportunity to resolve the matter but chose to do nothing. Other states have no standards for light duty diesels.

    • 0 avatar
      seth1065

      YES BCR you can keep it and opt for a “fix ” which may or may not ever come if you let VW fix your car you get about $5,000 and keep your car w diminished something, no one knows what that will be and most folks I know are gonna drive it 2 years and than decide to sell back and hopefully see what the fix is. If you say no to the fix , fine no cash for you and you keep driving it the way it is, every state has taken VW settlement money and part of that is no state can refuse to let owners drive their cars, they can not say we will not renew your papers. It seems from reading the vw forums the folks who deleted the emission parts of the car to get better performance and not have to deal w pricey parts that fail ( DPF and HPPF mostly) are the ones who want every inch of flesh from VW.

    • 0 avatar
      notwhoithink

      Yes. You can keep it as-is and run it until it dies. Of course you forego all financial incentives from the court settlement.

  • avatar
    CowDriver

    LeMons racing!

  • avatar
    Whatnext

    Still waiting to hear from VW Canada on what they’re going to do. I thought they had committed to accepting the US settlement as the pattern to follow, but they’ve been silent and their emissions info website hasn’t been updated since October 18.

    • 0 avatar
      kmoney

      We have about 250 or so of the Canadian dealer cars sitting in our lot since they were first pulled from sale. Doesn’t seem to be any plan for these in the short-term future either. It’s going to be interesting to watch them when they go to get them out, as the way their were put away none of these is getting out under their own power.

    • 0 avatar
      brettc

      December 19th! I really hope they announce something then and stop screwing around with the patient, polite Canadians.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Coming to a crusher near you – VW TDIs, Mad Max special editions.

  • avatar
    Big Al From 'Murica

    Dick move? I can’t even tell anymore.

  • avatar
    kmoney

    I hope someone strips one down like the Roadkill Corvette-Kart and tries to bring it back. Dick move, sure, but still hilarious.

  • avatar

    I am advised my paperwork is acceptable (Govt ID and proof of ownership), and since the car has gone to the crusher anyway after a highway kerfuffle, I’m now waiting on a check.

    Can’t say I’m unhappy. I’ve never had a car before send ME money. I liked my TDi quite a bit, and family members complain they miss it compared to the CTS. Still I’d turn it in anyway, the entire emissions system is a nightmare. If my DPF lasted 83k miles the first time, I’m not optimistic that the replacement would make it much further, and a $2400 expense for a DPF every 100k or so kinda destroys the cheep diesel model.

  • avatar
    walleyeman57

    Slightly off topic:

    My daughters friend has a Golf TDI. He was so proud of it he purchased a vanity plate.

    CLN DSL

    Clean Diesel.
    OOPS.

  • avatar
    lon888

    I really question the validity of the article. I talked to an owner of a 2015 TDI and his $25,000 buyout offer was based on the low mileage and overall condition of his car. I can’t imagine a car with half of its stuff missing getting an identical offer.

    • 0 avatar
      Jimal

      It would, because of the terms of the agreement. Restitution is based on the NADA Used Car Guide Clean Trade Value for a given vehicle’s year, model and mileage, and not on the specific condition of a particular car. All 2010 Jetta TDI SE are worth the same, regardless of condition, with adjustments being made only for mileage.

      Supposedly Volkswagen can select cars for modification and resale, but I have to imagine that this option is going to be almost exclusively for the thousands of cars that are being held from the stop sale last year.

  • avatar
    GregAmy

    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.”

  • avatar
    GregAmy

    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.

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