News of “Dieselgate” broke in the Fall 2014, when vaunted vehicle-maker Volkswagen was accused of dodging federal emissions laws by rigging its automobiles so they would pass smog tests. The summer of 2015 saw the scandal came to a dramatic climax as government lawyers made headlines by announcing a $14.7 billion settlement with the German company.
According to the terms of the deal, Volkswagen will use the money to compensate consumers by buying back their vehicles or repairing them so they comply with the Clean Air Act. The deal also calls for the company to earmark $2.7 billion of the $14.7 billion for mitigating the pollution caused by cheating and lying in order to reduce the bottom line. Another $2 billion will be put aside for emissions-reduction research.
“By duping the regulators, Volkswagen turned nearly half a million American drivers into unwitting accomplices in an unprecedented assault on our environment,” NBC News reported Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates as saying at a news conference.
Volkswagen admitted its guilt after being called out for installing a software device on new models dating back to the 2014 factory year that blocked the release of carbons – but not really – resulting in false readings during testing. Corporate executives astoundingly revealed 11 million cars were equipped with the device worldwide.
“This historic agreement holds Volkswagen accountable for its betrayal of consumer trust, and requires Volkswagen to repair the environmental damage it caused,” attorney Elizabeth Cabraser said in a statement, according to NBC News.
Owners of more than 475,000 Volkswagens in the United States are eligible for the $10 billion buy-back or repair program, as well as monetary compensation in amounts up to $10,000. Leasers will be able to get out of their contracts without penalty fees. Affected vehicles with 2.0-liter TDI (turbocharged direct injection) engines include: 2013, 2014 and 2015 Beetles; Golfs from 2010 through 2015; 2009 through 2015 Jettas; 2012 through 2015 Passats; and Audi A3s built in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2015.
Drivers who want more information about their stake in the settlement and whether their vehicles qualify according to the terms can visit vwcourtsettlement.com.
“We take our commitment to make things right very seriously and believe these agreements are a significant step forward,” Volkswagen CEO Matthias Müller said in a press release.