Volkswagen’s admission in September 2015 that it had installed emissions cheating devices on more than 500,000 U.S.-sold diesel vehicles has left scores of affected owners wondering what to do with a car that is not what they paid for and not technically road-legal. VW has scrambled to control the damage done to its brand as lawsuits pile up against the German automaker.
On October 25, 2016, a federal court approved the terms of a $15 billion settlement that VW hopes will make things right with U.S. TDI owners.
Still, many consumers may want to opt out of the settlement and pursue their own legal action. Our team can answer questions about your rights and options, at no cost or obligation to you.
What’s the Problem with Volkswagen Diesels?
Volkswagen installed software known as “defeat devices” on nearly 600,000 U.S.-sold diesel vehicles that masked the cars’ true emissions. The software is able to detect when a federally mandated emissions test is being conducted and switch to an operating mode that allows the vehicles to ostensibly pass federal clean air emissions standards. When driven on the road, however, the VWs emit levels of nitrous oxides (NOx) up to 40 times those permitted by U.S. emissions laws.
These Volkswagens violate the U.S. Clean Air Act. They also were fraudulently marketed to U.S. customers, who paid a higher sticker price (compared to a gasoline vehicle) for a vehicle that they were told had an impressive emissions profile.
Which Vehicles Are Affected?
The VW emissions scandal affects roughly 500,000 diesel passenger cars sold in the United States, including the following 2.0L TDI models:
- VW Jetta(2009-2015)
- Jetta Sportwagen (2009-2014)
- VW Golf (2010-2015)
- VW Golf Sportwagen (2015)
- VW Beetle/Beetle Convertible (2013-2015)
- VW Passat (2012-2015)
- Audi A3 (2010-2015)
Volkswagen also admitted that approximately 80,000 3.0L V6 diesel models sold in the U.S. are affected, including:
- VW Touareg (2009-2016)
- Audi A6 Quattro (2014-2016)
- Audi A7 Quattro (2014-2016)
- Audi A8/A8L (2014-2016)
- Audi Q5 (2014-2016)
- Audi Q7 (2009-2016)
- Porsche Cayenne (2013-2016)
Aren’t Some VW Gasoline Vehicles Also Affected?
An additional 430,000 Volkswagens, including some gas vehicles, were found to have false carbon dioxide emissions readings, but these vehicles are not sold in the United States. VW has said that the issue is not related to emissions-cheating software, but is instead the result of a testing instrumentation discrepancy. The VWs with CO2 irregularities are sold mostly in Europe.
Has VW Proposed Any Fixes?
Volkswagen has yet to announce a comprehensive plan to remedy the emissions problem, but the media has reported a few proposals.
Any fix to the excessive NOx emissions would have to be approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) because VW is in violation of the federal Clean Air Act.
There are concerns, however, that a fix would diminish the vehicle’s performance, fuel efficiency, and/or reliability. In fact, some owners might forego whatever repair or retrofit that Volkswagen and the EPA recommend because they care more about power and fuel economy and care less about emissions. But owners who skip the fix might be prevented from registering their vehicles in states that have stringent emissions standards, like California.
It’s likely that there will not be a one-size-fits-all fix, but rather different fixes for different vehicles. And Volkswagen may end up buying back some cars that are too pricey to repair. VW Chief Executive Officer Matthias Muller said, “In some cases it’s very easy to repair the cars, in other cases it’s very expensive and in that case we have to negotiate whether it would be better to bring back some of the cars to Volkswagen.”
A German daily reported in January 2016 that VW assumes it will have to buy back approximately 115,000 U.S.-sold diesel cars. It’s also been reported that Volkswagen will propose a catalytic converter retrofit that would solve the NOx emissions problem in more than 400,000 cars.
What About the Compensation Fund?
Volkswagen announced in December 2015 that it had hired Kenneth Feinberg—the same attorney who oversaw payout programs for the 9/11 terror attack, the BP gulf oil spill, and the GM ignition defect scandal—to administer a compensation fund for the VW diesel snafu. One of the primary goals of the fund is to steer affected owners away from litigation and into a private deal with Volkswagen.
Mr. Feinstein is still working on the details of the program. Cash compensation, vehicle buybacks, and other remedies are all possible. The parameters of the plan (i.e. which owners will be eligible for compensation, what proof will be required, what remedies will be offered, etc.) could take months to establish.
Because the fund is an alternative dispute resolution program that’s meant to avoid prolonged legal battles, victims of the emissions scandal who accept a compensation offer directly from Volkswagen would forfeit their right to sue.
What About the EPA’s Lawsuit Against Volkswagen?
The Environmental Protection Agency is suing Volkswagen for up to $48 billion over Clean Air Act violations. The case could recover significant money for the federal government, but it has virtually no bearing on VW owners.
How Do I File a Volkswagen Lawsuit?
Despite VW setting up a compensation fund, legal action may still be in an owner’s best interest. Our attorneys have already filed a VW class action lawsuit that you may be eligible to join. It is also possible to file a private (non-class action) VW lawsuit.
Our team can help you decide which course of action is best for you. Contact us today.