You may have already heard that the federal case over VW being caught cheating on their automobiles’ emissions ratings is nearing an end. The expected settlement is a big one, with repayments to customers expected to run $10B and another nearly $5B in fines for unspecified “climate related” damages. (Don’t even get me started.) One might think that both consumers and environmentalists could pat themselves on the back after that and call it a good day’s work, but some owners are giving the judge an earful. It seems that the repayments aren’t large enough and the unhappy VW fans would like more. (Associated Press)
Several angry Volkswagen owners told a federal judge on Tuesday that a $10 billion settlement does not adequately compensate them for the automaker’s emissions cheating scandal, part of a vocal minority who objected to the deal as hundreds of thousands of others signed up for payments.
U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer will determine whether the settlement is fair to consumers and should receive final approval. He said he was “strongly inclined” to approve it but would make a final decision by Oct. 25, giving him time to consider the owners’ objections and whether he should recommend any changes.
“We got played the fool,” Mark Dietrich, an Audi owner from San Francisco, told the judge earlier at a hearing in San Francisco. “This settlement does not go far enough.”
Dietrich demanded the full purchase price of his car as well as part of his registration fee.
Volkswagen broke the law and there’s no question they have to pay. Granted, the specific fines to be imposed (as opposed to compensation given to customers) are a bit ambiguous. Tacking on nearly $5B for, “unspecified environmental mitigation to make up for the excess pollution” leaves a lot of running room which we might not be comfortable with. (Yes, that’s an actual phrase from the pending order.) Still, the law is the law and something had to be done.
But I have to wonder about some of the protests coming from the owners. They’re already in line for what appears to be a pretty sweet deal. If suitable repairs can not be offered, VW will have to buy back their cars, plus give them $5,100 to $10,000 depending on the make and model of automobile they purchased. And now some of them are demanding more? What are the real damages suffered by the car owners? This isn’t a recall for some defect which made the cars unsafe or placed them in danger. The emissions were higher than posted. The car still functioned normally and served their purposes. If the laboratory testing discoveries hadn’t been revealed I doubt any of them would have suspected a single thing was wrong with their vehicles.
It sounds to me as if some of the owners are getting ready to cash in on a very nice deal. They can take a used vehicle – in some cases several years old – and receive pretty much the new car value plus a nice bonus. This will allow them to essentially upgrade to a brand new model while taking zero loss for wear and tear on their old car. And some of them are complaining that this isn’t enough?
You bought a car which was fraudulently marketed as having lower emissions than it actually did. That doesn’t mean you just hit the lottery.