Volkswagen’s pockets are officially about to get much lighter. The U.S. EPA says the automaker has reached a record $14.7 billion dollar settlement with the government for deliberately cheating U.S. emissions. Most of the money will go towards getting things right with TDI owners, while a smaller portion will go towards developing green vehicle technology.
Under the settlement, VW must shell out $10 billion dollars to nearly 500,000 diesel owners to either buyback their cars or terminate leases. Following what Deputy U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates called “one of the most flagrant violations of environmental and consumer laws in our country’s history, each owner of an affected diesel will get the repurchase price of their vehicle plus $5,100-$10,000 depending on the model and year. Drivers who terminate their leases early will receive half of what an eligible owner would receive for an equivalent vehicle.
The money can also be used for emissions modifications to make the vehicles legal, although right now there is still no EPA-approved fix. VW must also forgive loans in some cases.
The 2009-2015 VW TDI 2.0-liter diesels part of the buyback, lease termination and emissions modification plans are:
- TDI Audi A3 TDI
Owners should not expect a check right away. The money will not be available until everything is approved by the court, which may not be until October 2016. Drivers should expect VW notices then.
Meanwhile, Volkswagen must also spend $4.7 billion on clean vehicle technology. That includes making investments that support zero-emissions technology and also spending money on clean vehicle education.
“Today’s settlement restores clean air protections that Volkswagen so blatantly violated,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “And it secures billions of dollars in investments to make our air and our auto industry even cleaner for generations of Americans to come. This agreement shows that EPA is committed to upholding standards to protect public health, enforce the law, and to find innovative ways to protect clean air.”
This all started last fall when VW admitted some of its TDI diesels cheated U.S. emissions tests. The automaker used a so-called “defeat device” to make emissions numbers look better than they actually were during lab testing. In reality, the vehicles were emitting harmful NOx at levels up to 40 times EPA-compliant levels during normal on-road driving conditions.
The FTC threw its hat into the ring over the false and deceptive advertising part of it. Regulators say VW falsely claimed the cars were low-emission, environmentally friendly, met emissions standards and would maintain a high resale value.
“Today’s announcement shows the high cost of violating our consumer protection and environmental laws,” said FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez. “Just as importantly, consumers who were cheated by Volkswagen’s deceptive advertising campaign will be able to get full and fair compensation, not only for the lost or diminished value of their car but also for the other harms that VW caused them.”
Meanwhile, the two settlements don’t mean VW is out of the woods yet.
They don’t include claims concerning VW’s 3.0-liter diesel vehicles. They also don’t address any criminal liability.
“This partial settlement marks a significant first step towards holding Volkswagen accountable for what was a breach of its legal duties and a breach of the public’s trust,” said Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates. “And while this announcement is an important step forward, let me be clear, it is by no means the last. We will continue to follow the facts wherever they go.”