Volkswagen Seems To Be Screwing TDI Diesel Vehicle Owners Over With Dieselgate Buyback Process

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tdi-clean-dieselWhile Volkswagen’s cred is probably more or less shot with most people, the company could probably fall quite a ways further if it continues current behavior. (See: European Commission Test Results Show Latest Diesel Audi A3 Emitting NOx At Twice The Legal Limit.)

With that in mind, it’s worth taking a look at how things are going with regard to the company’s buyback program for TDI diesel vehicle owners in the US (the result of a court order).

How’s that going?

Not well.

Many of those taking part are saying that Volkswagen isn’t keeping to its end of the deal, and is taking far longer than it is supposed to, to complete certain steps of the process.

I suppose that it should be an easy enough thing to tell whether the company is keeping to its end of the deal, but there seems to be a lot of conflicting information about timing. The FTC’s order — “Partial Stipulated Order For Permanent Injunction And Monetary Judgement” — seems to contradict statements from Volkswagen reps, some of whom have repeatedly contradicted each other as well.

The FTC order essentially says that VW only has 10 business days to go over the application following receipt of a buyback application, and a further 10 business days to send an offer to the owner in question. (This apparently didn’t go into effect until November 1st, following approval on October 25th.)

This mandated timing is apparently not how things are actually playing out, though, going by many owner reports. (Tip of the hat to Ted Kidd.)

Jalopnik provides more (NSFW at the end):

“Many forum-users and Redditors think so, and for many of them, especially those who financed their vehicles, those 10 days have come and gone. …

“The confusion with timing has gotten so bad, Reddit user UncrunchyTaco created a VW TDI Claim Tracker spreadsheet, which has been filled out by over 1,000 TDI owners, and describes when owners went through each part of the buyback process: uploading documents, receiving verification from VW that documents are complete, getting a final offer, returning that signed offer, and scheduling a date with a dealership.

“Many of them, particularly those who financed their vehicles, are upset that their documents haven’t been approved after 10 days, and many others are upset they haven’t gotten an offer 10 days after the web portal said their documents were complete, like the FTC court document seems to state. …

“Here’s a quote by Reddit user chewyeti, who says he’s spoken with the class-action lawyers:
Basically, my conversation was as follows:

” ‘VW didnt expect everyone to dump their car in the beginning of the 2 year claim window.
Failed to staff correctly, and are still ramping up.
Poor training of staff. Not empowered to fix anything
‘Paid off cars’ are 1 step easier to process, no checking with the Bank or Credit Union.
Basically, they’re overwhelmed and not much we can do as consumers. Yet we are bound to continue making payments, and they are not being held to their agreement.
Sit tight, be patient, it’ll happen.
Utter fucking bullshit. Done with VW for life.’ 

Very interestingly that coverage also included an enlightening experience with the Volkswagen Claims Hotline — one where the writer spoke to two different agents and got two very different timelines.

The first agent apparently echoed the timeline given by the FTC order, after making note of how stressed her team was and how many computer problems there had been. When asked about why some people hadn’t received their offers within the 10 business day timeframe, the agent apparently stated: “We are working with other issues too, and there are a lot of cars out there.”

The second agent apparently dropped the pretenses of the first and simply stated: “We are not giving out a time frame, Volkswagen has decided that there is no timeframe,” owing to the number of applications coming in.

The agent also reportedly stated: “We’ve been instructed by Volkswagen to indicate to the consumer that there is no timeframe. … We’re only doing what Volkswagen is telling us to do. … It’s not fair. It’s not right. But unfortunately, it is what it is.”

What does this all sound like when taken as a whole? To me, it sounds like Volkswagen spending as little money on this as possible and just not giving a damn.

That seems like a strange thing to do, though, doesn’t it? Burning a substantial portion of ~400,000 owners just means that they’re going to go with a different brand in the future. What’s the upside? Just short-term penny pinching on staffing?

It should be remembered here that the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal first entered the news more than a year ago. The company has had a lot of time to prepare for this eventuality.

As a reminder here, the mandated buyback offer is essentially just a means of allowing owners of Volkswagen diesel TDI vehicles in the US a way of unloading their cars for the pre-scandal resale value. In other words, the scandal and Volkswagen’s criminal behavior and fraud greatly diminished the resale value of the vehicles in question, so the US government decided that Volkswagen should be on the hook for that, not the individual buyers of the diesel vehicles.

As an aside here, I keep expecting the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal to die down, but the company is seemingly doing everything it can to keep itself in the news with incompetence or fraud. Examples:

  • The recent news items about the new Audi diesel A3 emitting more than double the legal limit of NOx in real-world conditions.
  • The use of defeat devices in petrol vehicles as a means of reducing carbon dioxide emissions during testing processes but not during real-world use.

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James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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