By on April 10, 2017

Volkswagen Golf family

Angry phone calls from Volkswagen diesel owners eager for settlement cash are on the decline, while the amount of money paid for doomed TDI models has ballooned in recent months.

A status update filed by the automaker paints a clearer picture of where the arduous process stood at the end of February, with most of America’s diesel owners opting for a buyback or lease termination in addition to compensation cash.

Still, taking the nearly 500,000 rigged 2.0-liter vehicles off the road hasn’t been an easy one.

The court document published by Bloomberg shows Volkswagen rolling with the punches as customers — frustrated by untimely claims offers and service problems — swamped phone lines. The automaker set up a claims hotline last July to handle questions and complaints related to the buyback.

While most eligible customers received their offers in a reasonable time frame, issues cropped up. From the report:

Complaints related to processing delays peaked in late November and early December 2016 and subsequently leveled off. While they remained relatively steady through January 2017, a decline in negative feedback has been noticed in recent weeks, as Volkswagen is processing the remaining backlog of overdue claims. Notably, the initial complaints regarding delays were generally distributed among different eligibility classes and concerned a range of Claims Program challenges. However, complaints regarding processing lags by consumers with third-party loans steadily increased over the course of this reporting cycle, while complaints from other types of consumers have steadily declined. Over the past month in particular, more consumers raised questions and expressed frustration concerning the timing of when they or lenders could expect to receive post-closing payments from Volkswagen.

Because of the nearly one million calls logged between late July and late February, the ranks of hotline agents swelled from less than 100 to more than 500. Early on, many complained of hours-long waits and the call abandonment rate hit 70 percent. That rate now stands at 15 percent, VW claims.

The automaker was forced to add a “live chat” function after owners complained of not being able to speak with a real human being. However, many were angered by that human’s lack of knowledge, their demeanor, or failure to call back. In response to these complaints, VW rolled out another hotline agent training program in January.

“As might be expected, consumers have generally been annoyed by many of the unavoidable bureaucratic aspects of the claims process,” the report states.

As of February 18th, a total of 355,395 owners have submitted claims for a buyback, lease termination, or emissions modification, with 323,179 consumers issued offer letters. The total value of those offers amounts to roughly $5.9 billion. The number of owners and lessees who had completed a deal at the time of the report total 137,985, with the payout reaching $2.9 billion.

As of now, there’s a two-phase fix available only for 2015 models, which came equipped with the second-generation 2.0-liter engine. Still, roughly 52,000 owners have opted for the fix. It isn’t known how many are 2015 owners and how many might wait in vain for an extensive modification that never comes. (Also, those owners might not like what the fix does to their cars.)

John German, senior fellow at the International Council on Clean Transportation, told Bloomberg the changes needed to bring pre-2015 models into compliance might be too costly.

“Anything’s possible, but if the costs [of repairs] exceed the costs of just scrapping the vehicle, especially on the older ones where the values are so low, VW might just scrap them,” he said.

[Image: Volkswagen]

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45 Comments on “Fewer Angry Owners as Volkswagen Slogs Through Buyback Demands...”


  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I have a strong suspicion this has been a sales boon in the short term for VW.

    And if you’re after high MPG, a new manual-equipped Jetta like mine, with the 1.4 turbo, will return about 34 mpg in everyday driving. If most of your driving is on a freeway, that number heads towards 40 mpg. Given that, the higher price of diesel, and the vastly superior performance of the new turbo, there might not be much downside in chucking the old diesel in.

    • 0 avatar
      Carrera

      After this latest gas price hike, diesel is about 2-3 cents higher than 87 gas where I live. My Corolla gets 37 mpg on the hwy. I would love a 52 mpg diesel.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        The difference is more like $.20/gallon in my neck of the woods.

        If I set the cruse for 80 in my Jetta on a relatively flat Interstate, it’ll return 40+ mpg.

        Given the higher sticker price and higher fuel costs, I don’t see a huge economic case for diesel, and the gas powered version is far better to drive. I don’t think I’d be looking for a diesel unless I was doing a LOT of hardcore interstate driving. Otherwise, I don’t see the percentage in it.

        • 0 avatar
          euro16v

          We consistently got 45-48 mpg on highway trips in our 2011 Jetta TDI with the DSG. Our worst tank ever was around the 36 mpg range. When you break it down into cost per mile (we averaged $0.071 per mile over the 58,800 miles we owned our car. Sure there may be gasoline motors that can approach that figure, but the driving dynamics are not even close. No gas motor will ever have the low end grunt and the ease with which the torque piles on. The 1.4 and the new 1.5 gas motors may sip the fuel, but they feel nothing like a TDI. It will take an electric motor to replicate that torque sensation. And as much as I love the current crop of electric motors, I can’t take any currently available electric car and go drive 600-1000 miles ina single day on a road trip. (30,000 of our TDI miles where on out of state road trips). Teslas are very close I think with their supercharger network, but have to stay near the beaten path, deviating greatly extends charging times. So for the time being there is no replacement for diesel for my situation.

  • avatar
    427Cobra

    I can’t help thinking of that scene in The Jerk, where Steve Martin’s character (Navin Johnson) is writing out checks…

    “pay to the order of… Iron Balls McGinty… one dollar… and NINE CENTS!”

  • avatar

    I’m still unhappy.

    I have sent them all the requested information for the payment, my car having been wrecked. I sent them the lease. I sent the first purchase from VW and the release of lien letter. They wanted the information from the wreck. I sent that, along with the insurance company buy out, release of lien, etc.

    I was “approved”, per the website, then one day I wasn’t. They now want the “proof of first sale” again. Calling is Customer Service Roulette, most folks are cordial but appear overwhelmed or poorly trained.

    I’m not thrilled. I sent this all by Certified Mail, but in two weeks haven’t got the CMRRR card back. Their mailroom must be a [email protected]#K too. I’d think they’d know that VW Credit sold me the car….

    This is like the routine Mortgage lenders gave homeowners during the Great Recession. Ask for papers, ignore them, ask for papers again. If anyone is watching, the claim number is 160910011. You have my phone number, call me.

    (Or, how to make sure that an avid enthusiast, who will buy a few more nice cars in his lifetime, never goes back to the VW/Audi store, no matter how sweet that R Type looks)

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Why would anyone opt for the repair?

    They must not appreciate the impacts it will have on:

    1. Performance
    2. Mileage
    3. Resale

    OR

    4. They don’t want to get into a new car payment.

    As for VW, fixing any of these cars looks like a never-ending support nightmare. I can’t see why they’d try.

    • 0 avatar

      Not to mention replacement of Diesel Particulate Filters every 120k or so….$3600, 8 plus hours of labor, dealer only. Kinda puts the kibosh on any diesel fuel savings.

      • 0 avatar
        Carrera

        A lot of people who live in non-test states get the “off road” only package for about 1,000 dollars. Mileage shoots to well over 50 mpg, driveability increases greatly but baby seals and baby rabbits could die in the process. No, the cars don’t roll coal but they are not emitting smells of roses probably.

        • 0 avatar

          I researched this. Stage 1 keeps the DPF, Stage 2 inserts a “test pipe” so you are putting out the particulates. You wouldn’t “roll coal” unless you set it up to, but you probably would get the back of the car oily, like the old days. I knew my DPF had popped when the previously clean back of the car began to get dirty, and there was pure black dust in the exhaust, where it had been shiny clean just before.

          • 0 avatar
            Carrera

            Well, I don’t know. The diesel fuel we use now is much cleaner than in the old days. If I had one of the affected vehicles, I would take the money and run. No way I would trust their fix, no matter how much I would love the car.

    • 0 avatar
      MrGrieves

      My thoughts exactly. There is no way that any “repair” would not adversely affect the car’s performance or longevity, especially for the Gen 1 vehicles. VW should pay the owners opting for “repair” much more than they are. Lifetime warranty on exhaust / emissions components would have been nice too.

      I completed my buyback in late December and it was a totally smooth process. Many of the folks over on Club TDI have not had it so easy…

      Officially though I’m done with VW. I had a laundry list of small issues with my Jetta when I turned it in. None of them were terrible, but in the aggregate they were totally irritating.

    • 0 avatar
      Rocket

      The jury is out on what will happen long term to un-repaired dirty diesels. Will you be able to trade it? If I’m a dealership, there’s no way I’m accepting an un-repaired TDI in trade.

      VW is said to have a fix for my gen 2 3.0 TDI. Half of the settlement money is dependent upon having the fix implemented. Even if I were willing to live with half of the money (I’m not), there’s too much risk involved to keeping a dirty Touareg long term. I will have it fixed, and if performance decreases as expected, I’ll unload it or get an aftermarket tune.

      • 0 avatar
        Carrera

        Well, I would venture to say that any unrepaired vehicle is a “keeper”. No one would take it in and give you a reasonable trade in. Sure, they take it off your hands, but won’t give you anything. May be sell it privately to an enthusiast in a “friendly” state that is not a emission Nazi state.

        • 0 avatar
          Rocket

          Something like a Q7 or Cayenne as a ‘keeper’ is quite risky once the repair window closes. A problematic Cayenne could be a serious money pit.

          • 0 avatar
            Carrera

            Well, of course. I was thinking in terms of a more cheaper car like a Jetta TDI or a Passat. Not something you have over 50k in it.

  • avatar
    stingray65

    When all the buyback, modification, scrapping, legal expenses are added up in this fiasco, I wonder what the cost per ton of “saved emissions” this program will end up costing. Most studies put the CO2 equivalent value of emission reductions at less than $50 per ton (i.e. the the value of the environmental benefits of reduced dirty emissions), but I bet this is going to be tens of thousands of dollars per ton.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      stingray65, you’re conflating fuel economy/carbon dioxide and real pollution that contributes to local photochemical smog. Volkswagen made diesel cars that seem to legitimately achieve their EPA fuel economy ratings, but cheat on the oxides of nitrogen tests. This contributes to real localized higher concentrations of ozone that can make it hard to breathe.

      • 0 avatar
        stingray65

        George B, actually I’m not conflating anything, because the standard method of valuing emission reductions is to convert everything to CO2 equivalents. Thus is a ton of Nitrogen emissions is twice as damaging as a ton of CO2, you merely double the going rate per ton of CO2 reduction to get the value of a Nitrogen reduction. Nitrogen is nastier stuff than CO2, but I’m sure the emission value amount saved by scrapping all these TDi’s is going to be thousands times less than the cost to achieve it.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      What I think ironically hilarious is that all these green-freak tree-huggers who were going to save Planet Earth by driving one of these “clean” cars now find themselves to be the worse polluters.

      Gives a new meaning to “Rolling Coal.”

      • 0 avatar
        Rocket

        You don’t have to be a “green-freak tree-hugger” to drive a TDI. Some of us just prefer a diesel engine’s low-end torque. The fact that they were efficient and “clean” was icing. But now VW has single-handedly destroyed the diesel market for luxury and near-luxury vehicles. There’s nothing hilarious about any of this.

        • 0 avatar
          Carrera

          Rocket, I wouldn’t say kill. Let’s wait for the Cruze diesel and for the magical Mazda diesel. Also, there is a new F150 V6 diesel coming. So, “kill” is a strong word I think. It killed it for VW cars, sure.

          • 0 avatar
            Rocket

            Actually, I said destroyed, and I specified luxury and near-luxury segments. The 3.0L TDI is an amazing powerplant for something like the Q7 and A7. All indications are that BMW and Benz are bailing, too. Even Jeep finally removed the diesel option from the Grand Cherokee configurator. JLR might soon be it, and even that might be short-lived.

            I’m tickled that GM remains committed, but they aren’t putting diesels in anything I’d buy. Now if Ford offers the 3.0L diesel in the next gen Explorer or Bronco …

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          “prefer a diesel engine’s low-end torque.”

          Hah! Get V8. It gives me the low-end torque I want.

          BTW, I’m a BIG FAN of diesels, just not tiny diesels in passenger cars. I’ve got a CDL. I’ve spent a little time OTR in tractor-trailers. I’m a big fan of diesel power; in BIG trucks.

          Want torque in a passenger vehicle? Banks Turbo-Diesel. Want slow-churning torque? Cummins Diesel.

          Look at it this way. It was good while it lasted.

          I agree with you that VW has single-handedly destroyed the market for ALL tiny diesels in passenger cars.

          People will think twice before plunking down good money for one of those.

          But you can also blame those university researchers who took it upon themselves to provide an answer to a question never asked.

          Namely, are OEM’s emission numbers applicable to the real world?

          The answer, of course, is a resounding NO!

          Not for gas, not for diesels, not for anything because there are too many variables in the real world as opposed to the controlled test environment used to establish the emissions and mpg numbers required by the Feds.

          • 0 avatar
            bumpy ii

            “But you can also blame those university researchers who took it upon themselves to provide an answer to a question never asked.”

            Um, they were hired by ICCT to answer that question.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            bumpy ii, if anyone digs hard enough and deep enough, they can uncover all sorts of unwanted test results.

            VW got bagged for cheating, but other OEMs are also hiding a bunch of stuff that they hope will never see daylight.

            Remember the GM ignition keylock disaster? That was something that was hiding in plain sight, for decades.

            What more is out there, if we only care to actually look for it?

            Sometimes we should let sleeping dogs ………

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Is this a help for the environment? Maybe, maybe not. It’s a valid question, but I think stingray is missing the point. This company a) broke the law, whether the law makes sense or not, and b) it certainly defrauded its’ customers.

      • 0 avatar
        stingray65

        FreedMike – I understand that VW broke the law, but a principle of justice is that the punishment fits the crime. We don’t execute shoplifters and jaywalkers, and since the crime here is dirty emissions, the punishment should reflect the value of those dirty emissions plus a reasonable “deterrence” amount.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          By the same argument, everyone in jail here in Colorado for dealing weed should be cut loose “on the principle” that it’s legal here now.

          What you’re talking about is a “ex post facto” law, just in reverse.

          I don’t see how that works.

          Whether the emission laws VW broke made sense to you or not, they were duly passed and implemented legally. No one disputes that. They broke the law as it existed at the time.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            FreedMike, I understand about laws and other rules to live by.

            But all auto OEMs have been getting away with automotive murder and mayhem since the beginning of time.

            VW cheated? Yes.

            Do other automakers cheat on whatever? I think they do. You know like maybe if GM had spend a dollar more on ignition key interlocks maybe a few more people would be alive today.

  • avatar
    HahnZahn

    I gotta say, my buyback process was really painless, even with the added possible wrinkle of having a loan remainder. I think I initiated it in mid-February and sold it back two weeks ago. No snags after having waited out the early pains I read a lot about.

    From a purely selfish point of view, I’m kinda glad the scandal broke. I owned two different TDIs over the course of 14 years, and I just never got the mileage I imagined. My best ever was 45 mpg on my old 2004 Golf. My 2012 SportWagen got a bit over 40 on one trip once. Never had a heavy foot, and I was always puzzled about the averages so many people were posting – like how different could their conditions possibly be that they’re squeezing out 50+?

    Now that diesel is dead, I get to do the cold, hard calculations. I think it’s unlikely I broke even on the upfront investment in buying a diesel, given more expensive repairs, maintenance and initial price. Yeah, it was a bit more torquey and fun, perhaps, but having this hang over me was annoying and stressful. I also don’t give a damn about Fahrvergnügen anymore as I get older – I care about safety and ease of travel. Electric is the future, and though I didn’t spring for an electric or hybrid with my replacement purchase, I fully expect that my next new car in a decade will be an electric.

    Diesel had a moment, but it’s gone. It is a shame about these cars from an environmental point of view, given the energy put into their manufacture not getting the expected usage.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Electric provides diesel torque but with even quicker response, and the ultimate in “fuel economy”. Resale could be tricky.

      Hybrid gives the fuel economy with no downsides except driveability.

      I’ve had both, but prefer electric because of its driveability.

    • 0 avatar
      brettc

      Best I’ve done over about 62000 miles is 42.1 on a long highway trip in October. That’s in a DSG wagon. Not terrible but my average is 33 which a lot of gas cars can achieve now.

      • 0 avatar
        HahnZahn

        Yeah, my fuel economy was about the same for a mix of city and highway. I got an Impreza to replace it, and it’s been about 27 in mixed driving. Got 40 on the highway, recently, though. Getting high diesel numbers was fun, especially those times when I could break 40, but just didn’t make financial sense. Might be worth it for loads of highway miles, but it’d still take forever to recoup that initial investment, and it’s like Russian roulette with the expensive components.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Anyone know if you can sell one of these back AFTER it’s fixed and it’s apparent that the car you bought and loved isn’t the same anymore?

    Or is it a binary choice (i.e., take the money and run, or take the fix and you’re stuck with the car)?

    If it’s the latter, I suppose you could try the fix and see if it works for you. Otherwise, the obvious best move is to chuck it back at VW and take the money.

    • 0 avatar
      brettc

      It’s binary as far as I know, either get the modification and a little bit of money, or sell the car to VW and get a lot more money.

      I’m keeping mine until late 2018, so it’ll be interesting to see if the private value of an unmolested DSG wagon with low mileage goes up or not.

      Maybe I’ll find a sucker to pay me $30K for it. VW is going to give me about $22K.

      • 0 avatar
        Carrera

        I wouldn’t touch a fixed diesel with a 100 foot pole. Actually, for the right price, there could be a market for an unmolested, untouched diesel. Of course, it would have to be at the right price for both parties. I almost bought a 16 month old 2014 VW Sportwagen TDI, 6 speed manual. The holy Grail if it was brown. No urea system in that one. Last year those models were made before the 2015 new body style came out. This is before the buy back news came out to the public. The VW dealer got it as a trade from a disperate lady who freaked out when the scandal broke. She got really screwed on the trade I am sure. Anyway, the VW dealer had it on the lot for 9 months as per car gurus. They were not in a rush to sell it at all though. The car had 9k miles and was mostly flawless. They wanted a crazy price for it. The car was about 24-25k brand new. When I test drove it, it was 1,5 years old. The dealer wanted crazy money for it…$19,500. Also told me that because of the scandal VW was not honoring the left over bumper to bumper warranty. The dealership was going to give me a secondary market, weird warranty. They didn’t budge from their price. In retrospect, they knew no one would buy it for that price but also knew that VW would take it off their hands. If a fool walked in and gave them 19k, they would make a ton of money. I offered them 14k and walked away across the street to the Toyota dealership. Told them to call me before I buy another car. They gave me the spiel about German engineering, how dare I compare to Toyota..Blah..Blah. Half an hour later I was the owner of a Corolla S plus fully loaded with 6 speed manual with only 7k miles on it for less than I offered the VW dealership. Not sure if I could have qualified for the buy back now since I would have fully known the VW was tainted.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    I’m just curious, considering other carmakers have shown to cheat diesel emissions tests, why does VW get all the glory?

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      because the other automakers ran afoul of regulations in Europe, not here.

      Here, other than a preliminary RFI to FCA, nobody else has been named as cheaters.

      I’m not counting the ones where the accusers are attorneys trying to assemble a class action.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      Blatant cheating isn’t that big an offense, apparently.

      But then claiming the cheat was “corrected” and only giving it more of the same, denying/lying about it, then when cornered, claiming confusion/ignorance of the law, is a VW exclusive.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    My neighbor has a plateless Passat awaiting pickup. He replaced it with a diesel Cruze. I can’t say he’s happy either.

  • avatar
    TOTitan

    I am super happy with the program. In September of 2015 right after the scandal broke I traded my ’12 JSW tdi in on a ’16 GSW tsi. Even though I traded it in a year and a half ago VW just paid me $3009.00. Whats not to like?

  • avatar
    lon888

    After seeing a large number of Mk 7 Golf TDI’s running around, I have one question. Is the DOT going to eventually invalidate the VIN’s of the TDI’s that haven’t been modified or bought back? It would be terrible walking into your local tag agency to buy a new tag for your TDI only to be told “sorry we can’t register your vehicle your VIN is invalid”. What a major bummer.

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