If you’d purchased a car thinking it met emissions targets only to find out it didn’t, would a $500 pre-paid credit card, a $500 credit for service and sales and free roadside assistance make up for it?
We’re guessing the answer depends on the individual, but that’s exactly what Volkswagen is doing to some 482,000 U.S. customers affected by its ongoing dieselgate scandal.
But even though Volkswagen’s gesture of goodwill — essentially an atonement for purposely engineering the engine management software of 2.0-liter TDI diesel engines so they would cheat on EPA emissions tests — might be a start on the road of compensation for the hundreds of thousands of Volskwagen customers whose cars are now worth far less than they were a few weeks back, it doesn’t do anything to mask the ongoing turmoil at the German automaker.
In an announcement made yesterday, Volkswagen North America said it would be sending $500 Visa gift cards, along with a voucher for three years of roadside assistance and a $500 gift card redeemable at VW dealerships to each and every owner of an affected 2009-2015 model-year VW fitted with the 2.0-litre EA 189 TDI engine. The compensation package, which our friends at GreenCarReports note does not mean owners have to give up any legal rights to accept, is the first step in a long remedial process which could take years to execute.
That process, will likely involve the recall of all 482,000 vehicles for reprogramming of their engine control units, as well as the costly fitment of new parts designed to ensure that tailpipe NOx levels are within legal limits at all times. Given that VW purposely engineered cars to meet emissions when being tested on dynamometers but then to emit more than 35 times the legally permitted amounts of NOx in order to provide the claimed fuel economy and power when on the road, that recall program could be extremely costly indeed.
While we’ve yet to find a VW TDI owner willing to talk about the compensation offered them by VW, we can tell you that the compensation program — which will cost VW upwards of $482 million — is still likely the smallest of VW’s worries.
That’s because engineers at the German automaker are starting to talk about VW’s original transgressions with the 2.0-litre engine, as well as more recent allegations surrounding its 3.0-litre V-6 TDI engine and emissions figures for various small-capacity diesel and gasoline engines. Tie in rumors of VW executives in the U.S. having their passports confiscated, and the news that VW has shut down production in Chattanooga of its Passat TDI, and the aforementioned $482 million compensation bill seems small fry.
As Reuters detailed on Sunday, German-language newspaper Bild am Sonntag claimed engineers working at VW admitted to manipulating carbon dioxide emission data of its small-capacity gasoline and diesel vehicles because targets set by former VW boss Martin Winterkorn were just too difficult to achieve. Citing anonymous engineers, the newspaper said that engineers regularly tampered with tire pressures in order to make cars use less fuel during testing. They even modified the fuel used during testing, it claims, adding motor oil to diesel fuel to make fuel consumption lesson.
This latest revelation came just one day after German publication Suddeutsche Zeitung (via Automotive News) said on Saturday that German executives from Volkswagen were now trying to avoid travel to the United States after an employee of the company had their passport confiscated. While VW is denying both rumors, multiple newspapers, including The Financial Times, claim that the individual in question had been in the U.S. for several weeks and had visited the country as part of the emissions scandal.
That individual is currently banned from leaving the U.S.
The Financial Times says that VW lawyers are currently in discussions with the relevant authorities to get the passport returned to the individual in question, and notes that several other high-level VW engineers and managers have been to the United States in recent weeks without encountering any issues.
As for those gift cards? We’re guessing few owners will be appeased by $1,000 of free service and spending money when the value of their cars have likely dropped far more.
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