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The Newest Dieselgate Cheat: Owners Stripping Cars Before Buybacks

In the latest Dieselgate twist, it seems that some enterprising owners have decided to push the limits of the buyback agreement by gutting their cars of parts and then turning them in. Of course, VW is pissed off; the judge is peeved, and the FTC is outraged, as they well should be because the owners are wrong.
Posted: December 26, 2016 - 6:35PM
Author: Marc Stern

Never let it be said that people won’t try to make a buck off someone else’s misfortune. For example, there are 475,000 2.0-liter four-cylinder Volkswagen turbodiesels out there that are eligible for the vehicle buyback program. The program is part of Volkswagen’s admission that it was an emissions cheater and that it had rigged its turbodiesels to pass emissions tests when the automaker knew they could not.

VW TDI Owner Shenanigans

An item recently appeared in Jalopnik that indicated some TDI owners were involved in shenanigans that the court found unacceptable. It seems that owners have been testing the limits of the settlement and, at the same time, have been trying the court’s patience.

When the terms of the buyback program were spelled out, they were vague. There was only one requirement, in fact, the vehicles had to be operable. (They had to get to dealerships on their own.) That’s a rather nebulous-sounding condition. Of course, there were those who pounced on it, trying to play fast and loose with the agreement. For instance, a Cincinnati, Ohio TDI owner received lots of coverage for pulling the salable parts off his vehicle. After the parts had been removed, he drove the TDI to a dealership, ostensibly for the buyback.

VW was upset about it, of course. At one of the hearings last week on the settlement in San Francisco, U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer warned VW owners, telling them to stop gutting their TDIs for parts before turning them in. The jurist was responding to Volkswagen’s complaint that a Jalopnik story on the adventures of parts-removing TDI owners “goes too far.”

Judge Breyer told his courtroom that “the purpose of the agreement by Volkswagen was to accept these cars in the condition that they were in as they were being driven on the road, and not to strip the cars.” The jurist heatedly warned TDI owners he would consider further measures if the actions continued.

FTC Reams Owner Actions

An attorney for the Federal Trade Commission, also in court regarding the 3.0-liter V-6 TDI settlement last week, said the FTC is “absolutely against bad-faith behavior by consumers.” He did say that normal wear and tear is perfectly acceptable to the agency and TDI owners have no reason to be concerned about it.

Now, TDI owners have been told: if you strip it (the car) you risk it (the buyback) and if the trend continues Judge Breyer indicated he would consider further action, although he didn’t elaborate on what that action might be. By the way, the owner whose actions sparked all of this indicated he would put the parts back.