Volkswagen settlement gets preliminary approval – USA TODAY
A federal judge gave preliminary approval Tuesday to a sweeping settlement between Volkswagen, U.S. regulators and VW diesel-vehicle owners who will receive thousands of dollars in compensation.
U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer set the settlement in motion, allowing the German automaker and plaintiff attorneys to begin collecting information from 475,000 eligible consumers of 2-liter diesel cars that were rigged with software to cheat emissions standards.
Final approval of the class-action lawsuit settlement could come at a hearing Oct. 18, at which point compensation could begin immediately.
Volkswagen diesel owners can choose between a buyback or a fix — in addition to cash compensation ranging from $5,100 to $10,000 per owner. Owners who owe more than their vehicles are worth could qualify for loan payoffs.
To be sure, though, VW has yet to secure approval from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and California Air Resources Board on a proposed fix for the vehicles. Without that approval, VW would be forced to buy back all of the vehicles, with buybacks ranging from $12,500 to $44,000.
“We really wanted to do the right thing and get this thing to a resolution,” Volkswagen attorney Robert Giuffra told Breyer in a hearing in San Francisco.
Breyer cautioned that final approval is not guaranteed and said he still wants to hear comments from VW owners and others about the settlement, which is expected to cost VW up to $14.7 billion. The deal includes $2.7 billion for environmental mitigation and another $2 billion forclean-emissions infrastructure.
Breyer praised the settlement leader, former FBI director Robert Mueller, for his dedication to the cause and lauded attorneys involved in the process for reaching this point. He also complimented one particular aspect of the accord that prevents VW from shipping polluting vehicles to other countries instead of fixing or replacing them.
“We have a special responsibility that in resolving pollution issues here nationwide we don’t create them internationally,” Breyer said.
People who owned an affected VW model as of Sept. 18, 2015, when the EPA first exposed the scandal, or acquired a vehicle since then will be eligible. Anyone who sold their vehicle before Sept. 18 is not eligible. People who owned a vehicle as of Sept. 18 but have since sold it will split the compensation with their buyers.
Left unresolved is a potential settlement over 3-liter diesel vehicles that were also fitted with software to evade emissions standards. Those vehicles, numbering about 85,000 in the U.S., are not included in the 2-liter settlement.
U.S. attorney Joshua Van Eaton said authorities are currently testing the 3-liter vehicles in a process that will take another month and must be resolved before a deal can be reached.
Volkswagen remains under criminal investigation by the U.S. Justice Department and German prosecutors for the cheating, which spanned from model years 2009 through 2015, including some Audi models.
Follow USA TODAY reporter Nathan Bomey on Twitter @NathanBomey.