Protesting couple unable to return car at VW offices – The Desert Sun
They started in Colorado and then drove across the country in their 2011 Volkswagen, stopping in Austin, New Orleans, Chicago, Detroit and New York before arriving at VW headquarters in Virginia. But when Elisabeth Caspari and Marcus Moench tried to return their car in a protest of the company’s emissions scandal, VW declined to accept it.
Moench said when they arrived at the Volkswagen Group of America building in Herndon, Virginia, the reception was cordial yet cool. They were met by a pair of Volkswagen representatives and presented them with a “Make VW pay” petition including thousands of names collected by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.
The VW reps refused to accept the car on Tuesday, but the couple didn’t give up.
“We, despite strong discouragement, left the key on their doormat and the car in their lot and walked out,” Moench said in an email.
Moench is an environmental researcher who studies international water issues and climate change. He and his wife have vowed not to drive the car again. They said they wanted Volkswagen to store the vehicle until a solution could be worked out.
On a Twitter account they created for their cross-country protest, @whatnextvw, they posted a photo of the car key left on the doormat and wrote: “What’s your vision for environmentally sustainable transport? #makevwpay #dieselgate.”
When they bought their silver-gray 2011 Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen TDI, they were convinced by the claim that “clean diesel” could deliver excellent gas mileage on par with a hybrid. Fuel efficiency was especially important to them because they wanted to have a small carbon footprint and do their part to fight climate change.
After the VW emissions scandal broke in September, the two tried to return the car to the local Volkswagen dealership near their home in Boulder, Colo., but the dealership didn’t accept it. They held news conferences along the way on their road trip/protest and called for Volkswagen to make a shift toward more electric vehicles.
In September, the Environmental Protection Agency accused Volkswagen of deliberately rigging VW and Audi cars with a “defeat device” to evade Clear Air Act standards. Software was inserted into cars to let them perform better on emissions when they detected they were being tested.
Volkswagen has since admitted rigging about 11 million diesel vehicles worldwide with software to cheat emissions standards, including some 580,000 vehicles sold in the United States.
“We take these issues very seriously and we are working as quickly as possible to develop an approved remedy for the affected vehicles,” Jeannine Ginivan, a senior manager of corporate communications, said in an email. “Volkswagen is committed to making things right and regaining the trust of our valued customers.”
The company has offered affected car owners a “goodwill package” including a $500 prepaid gift card and a $500 Volkswagen dealership card.
Moench said after they left the car in the company’s parking lot, they received emails and a call from Volkswagen representatives urging them to pick up the car. They were warned that if abandoned, the vehicle would need to be towed.
On Thursday, they returned and picked up the car. They drove it to a friend’s house in Falls Church, Virginia, where they left it parked on the street.
“It’ll stay parked outside our friend’s house. We need to figure out our next steps,” Moench said.
Volkswagen officials have pledged to cooperate with government agencies investigating the scandal. They have hired lawyer Kenneth Feinberg “to develop a swift, fair and independent program for resolving private consumer claims relating to these issues,” Ginivan said.
Moench and Caspari are mulling their next steps. They plan to keep speaking up about the scandal on their blog whatnextvw.org.
On Thursday, they were taking a bus to New York. From there, they planned to board an Amtrak train bound for Colorado.
Ian James can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter: @TDSIanJames