Volkswagen announced a new, “we’re sorry” gift card to owners of its 2.0-liter diesel cars. While some customers seem okay with the program, others are clearly appalled and have begun insisting that Volkswagen buy back their “dirty” diesels.
The offer provides owners with two gift cards: one is a prepaid Visa card worth $500 that can be used anywhere, the other is a $500 gift card that can be used at “any participating Volkswagen dealership” (which implies that some dealerships have snubbed the program). Volkswagen is also offering three years of free roadside assistance.
That adds up to a value of around $1,200, though most will probably only cash in with the Visa card. Considering the sticker price of the vehicles affected by the scandal, $1,200 is a not a comforting amount for payback.
One Jetta TDI owner feels clearly betrayed: “I kept telling myself that the emissions and clean diesel and excellent miles per gallon made up for the rough ride and loud road noise.”
One Audi A3 TDI owner puts it more strongly: “They should HAVE to take my car back and return my money. It’s outrageous.”
So far, however, buy-backs don’t appear up for discussion. If all U.S. vehicle owners affected by the scandal were to accept Volkswagen’s gift cards, the company would shell out more than $570 million in cash, incentives and services. That’s not exactly chump change, even for an international corporation like Volkswagen.
But buying back those vehicles would push that sum well over $12 billion and that wouldn’t begin to cover the more than 10.5 billion Volkswagen models in other countries, or the recently red-flagged 3.0-liters.
Based on previous auto scandals, including last year’s Switchgate fiasco at General Motors and the ongoing Takata airbag recall affecting a dozen car companies in the U.S., it’s unlikely that Volkswagen will be required to buy back its flawed diesel vehicles. Repairing them won’t be cheap, easy, or quick and many owners will refuse due to it changing the performance and gas mileage of their car significantly. For the “green” drivers, they will end up losing these features they paid a premium for.
This is one reason why owners are joining VW class-action lawsuits. We doubt buy-backs will happen, but VW is going to have to cough up more than their goodwill package. That isn’t cutting it