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VW gets preliminary approval for diesel buybacks, cash payouts

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Volkswagen’s proposal to buy back, repair and provide cash compensation to owners and lessees of 2-liter diesel cars equipped with emissions-cheating software took a step forward today. Additional details of how the settlement will proceed were also revealed during the court hearing with Judge Charles Breyer, who is overseeing the civil claims case involving 475,000 VW and Audi diesel models.

What are the terms of the settlement?
Owners of the affected 2-liters can sell back their cars to Volkswagen or end their leases without an early termination penalty. Or they can keep their vehicles and receive a free emissions modification. The emissions modification is subject to approval by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board. Regardless of whether customers choose the buyback or the repair, they will receive an additional cash payment from Volkswagen.

How will the cars be valued?
The cars will be valued as of September 15, 2015. The car’s condition does not matter. Dings, scratches, gum in the carpet, etc., will not diminish its value. If a car is operable under its own power, it’s eligible for the buyback. Drivers can keep driving their cars without any reduction in the base value of the car, presuming an average annual mileage of 12,500 miles per year.

What about cars that were financed and are now worth less than the amount owed?
If more is owed on a car than it’s worth, under the terms of the settlement, VW will forgive the loan. That said, loan forgiveness is voided if an owner stops making payments on the loan or takes out a title loan on the car.

I own one of the affected 2-liter cars. Where can I find out more information?
More information about the program can be found at

Do owners and lessees need to decide if they want the buyback or the repair at the time they file a claim?
No. Owners do not need to decide until they know what the repair will be. Once the repair is known, if the buyer decides to go with the buyback, the owner can still choose that option.

What is the status of the repair?
It isn’t yet available. VW is still working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and California Air Resources Board for an approved emissions modification.

When will VW start buying back the cars?
This fall.

What will happen to the cars?
The settlement ensures that the vehicles VW buys back are not resold domestically or in the foreign market until and unless they have received a modification to fix the emissions problem. If the cars are fixed, their titles will be labeled as having been a part of the emissions problem.

How will owners and lessees be notified of their options?
The settlement will be implemented by Volkswagen, which will send owners a direct notice in the mail. The notice will be sent in a flat envelope that is colored to stand out from other mail and will also provide language about the case. Inside, the envelopes contain a long-form notice and a summary of the settlement options in an easy-to-read Q&A. Owners may also be notified by email.

What’s the process for filing a claim?
Customers will visit an online claims portal where they can enter their VIN information and upload documents about their cars. If they opt for a buyback, the site will indicate how much the vehicle return amount will be. VW then has 10 business days to accept the claim and make an offer. The buyback is then scheduled and the settlement has to be made within 90 days. Lessee settlements will be handled within 45 days; lessees will receive a check on site at the time they return the car.

Judge Breyer’s approval of the VW settlement was granted preliminarily. When will final approval be granted?
October 18 is the court date for final approval of the proposed settlement.

What’s the status with the 3-liter diesel vehicles that also have emissions defeat devices?
The Department of Justice met with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and California Air Resources Board twice in July to discuss the technical issues for resolving the emissions-cheating issue that affects 85,000 3-liter vehicles from Audi, Porsche and Audi sold in the U.S. Testing for proposed fixes is ongoing to see if the repairs can make the vehicles fully emissions compliant and durable, according to a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice. The court will hold its next status hearing on the affected 3-liter diesels August 25.

Susan Carpenter is co-host of Southern California Public Radio's series on modern mobility, The Ride.