After a weekend of rumor, Volkswagen today confirmed that it will offer owners of diesels involved in the Dieselgate scandal a $500 prepaid Visa card as a piece of a three-part package aimed at mollifying customers caught up in the deception. At the heart of the Dieselgate scandal is Volkswagen’s admission that it had gamed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by using cheatware to pass diesel emissions test. The federal emission watchdog recalled 482,000 2009-15 VW TDI vehicles; has halted sales of new cars, and has pulled all certification of 2016 vehicles.
In addition to the prepaid Visa card, diesel owners will receive a second prepaid card worth another $500, redeemable at any Volkswagen dealership. Finally, the automaker has promised affected owners three years of free roadside assistance. Today’s announcement covers only Volkswagen brand vehicles. Audi will launch a similar program on Nov. 13.
Today’s action is the first major move VW has made since the Sept. 18 recall announcement by the EPA. Along with today’s action, the automaker has offered financial incentives to dealers caught with now-unsalable inventory, said Automotive News today.
Meantime, VW has been working to find fixes for the issues surrounding emissions issue. Michael Horn, chief executive officer of Volkswagen Group of America, emphasized that VW’s engineers have been ”working tirelessly to develop an approved remedy for affected vehicles.” The VW chief said that today’s package is”a first step towards regaining our customers’ trust.”
Not exactly straightforward, the program first requires that an owner see if a vehicle is eligible for the card. To determine eligibility, an owner must log onto this site www.vwdieselinfo.com. If the vehicle qualifies for the program, the owner must enter contact information and wait for about four weeks until the card issues.
According to the automaker, those who opt for this VW-sponsored program are not giving up their rights to sue for damage. That was disputed by attorneys. According to a Los Angeles Times story today, attorneys were telling their clients not to sign papers for the program as they believe the program is an end-run by the automaker.
“It is a complete end run around the litigation that is in place,” said Amy Williams-Derry, an attorney with Keller Rohrback, one of the law firm’s pursuing class action litigation against the automaker. “They are trying to buy off plaintiffs who have already sued and consumers who would benefit from a class-action recovery,” said the Los Angeles daily.
As this program was announced today, the automaker continued to work with EPA and California Air Resources Board (CARB) officials to find a fix for the emissions problems. As there are three generations of VW engines involved, it looks like the following may be needed:
- About 325,000 first generation VWs, built from 2009 to 2015, will need extensive hardware and software modifications to meet emissions rules.
About 90,000 Passats, built using second generation engines – 2012-14 – will need software possibly some hardware changes to meet emissions rules.
- About 67,000 third generation VW engines will require only software modifications.