Judge warns VW owners not to strip diesel cars for buybacks – USA TODAY
The company has already paid a $10 billion settlement
A federal judge warned Volkswagen owners not to strip parts out of their diesel vehicles before attempting to sell them back to the automaker through the company’s emissions settlement.
U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer’s warning Thursday came after reports on the automotive blog Jalopnik of a Cincinnati man who “completely stripped” his 2010 VW Golf diesel car before attempting to qualify for the buyback.
The man ripped out the “doors, seats, hood, bumpers, hatch and a big portion of the interior” before trying to turn in his vehicle, according to Jalopnik. VW rejected his attempt to qualify for the buyback, which would have been worth anywhere from $14,897 to $15,557 for the typical 2010 VW Golf diesel.
Volkswagen Group agreed in June to the nearly $15 billion settlement with the U.S. government, California regulators and consumers over 2009 to 2016 model-year 2-liter diesel cars that violated emissions standards. Owners qualify for buybacks or a free fix and compensation, assuming VW can deliver a repair authorized by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The 2-liter buybacks ranged from $12,500 to $44,000, adjusted for mileage. Owners of 2-liter models who qualify for and receive a free repair will also receive $5,100 to $9,852 in payouts.
VW attorney Robert Giuffra said Thursday at a court hearing that “a handful of owners have brought in vehicles that have been regrettably, deliberately stripped of parts.”
In an apparent reference to the Cincinnati man, he noted “one owner” who ripped out “almost every part” — even the air bags.
That “goes too far” and “they should not be engaging in deliberate parts stripping,” Giuffra told the judge.
“I would echo that,” Breyer responded. “Clearly the purpose of the agreement by Volkswagen was to accept these cars in the condition that they were in as they were being driven on the road, and not to strip the cars.”
Addressing VW owners, he said, “A word of caution is appropriate at the time.”
Jonathan Cohen, an attorney for the Federal Trade Commission, said the agency is “absolutely against bad-faith behavior by consumers” but also noted that VW cannot reject buybacks based on “the vehicle’s superficial condition.”
That is, normal wear and tear is acceptable.
Breyer said he would consider taking official action to address the matter if necessary at a later date.
The judge also confirmed Thursday that a class-action group of consumers has reached a settlement in principle with VW to deliver “substantial compensation” for owners of 3-liter, 6-cylinder diesel vehicles, including crossovers and sport-utility vehicles, that also violated emissions standards.
That $1 billion deal — reached by the Justice Department, EPA and California Air Resources Board and first announced Tuesday — will deliver buybacks for the 20,000 owners of the 2009 to 2012 Volkswagen Touareg and 2009 to 2012 Audi Q7, as well as a free fix and payouts for 63,000 owners of 2013 through 2016 3-liter diesel models.
Officials did not release details of the compensation plans on Thursday because the settlement is still being finalized.
But Breyer said he was “extremely pleased” by the deal. He will have to officially approve the accord before it moves forward.
VW will have more than a year to deliver a fix for the 3-liter vehicles, if necessary, Breyer said. If it can’t do so, all of the units will qualify for the buyback.
Follow USA TODAY reporter Nathan Bomey on Twitter @NathanBomey.