‘Buy-back’ sounds like the plan for 500K American VW diesel-vehicle owners

“Buy-back” is the operative term, at least, at present, anyway.

To bring all up to speed, Volkswagen is on the hook, according to one source, for as much as $10 billion as compensation to remedy problems caused by the nearly half-a-million diesel-engine-equipped vehicles in the U.S. possessing what’s called “defeat-device” software. These vehicles, when under lab-testing conditions, met strict emissions standards, but then did not when said same vehicles were actually driven on roads, in some cases emitting up to 40 times the legal limit for nitrogen oxide (NOx), a pollutant found to damage lungs. Preliminary approval of related court settlement proceedings could happen in the coming weeks, while full green-lighting could come in the fall.

“In California, VW’s cheating was particularly harmful, because our air quality is worse than anywhere else in the nation, with 23 million people living within the nation’s only severe nonattainment areas for ozone pollution, and 12 million living in areas with nation-leading levels of fine particle pollution,” declared the California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board (ARB) in the news release “Volkswagen to spend over one billion dollars in California to address illegal emissions caused by cheating devices on its 2.0-liter diesel vehicles: Funds to fully mitigate pollution from cheating and make investments to expand California’s growing Zero-Emission Vehicle market.”

Further, the ARB noted: “California Air Resources Board Chair Mary D. Nichols and Attorney General Kamala D. Harris announced [Jun. 28, 2016] that German automaker Volkswagen AG and related entities have agreed to funding or investments totaling more than one billion dollars in California to fully remedy the environmental harm caused by using illegal ‘defeat devices’ to cheat emissions tests in 71,000 2.0-liter diesel cars sold in California between 2009-2015.

“The money for California includes approximately $380 million for projects to reduce smog-producing pollution by incentivizing clean heavy-duty vehicles and equipment in disadvantaged communities, and $800 million in investments to advance California’s nation-leading zero-emissions vehicle programs. VW will make these payments and investments in installments over several years. California’s share represents one-quarter of the $4.7 billion mitigation fund and ZEV investment obligations.

“The mitigation funding and ZEV investments are part of a settlement requiring Volkswagen to offer consumers a buyback and lease termination for all 500,000 model-year 2009-2015 2.0-liter diesel vehicles sold or leased nationwide, and spend up to $10 billion to compensate consumers under the program.

“In addition to the buyback option, Volkswagen may also propose an emissions modification plan to U.S. EPA and CARB, and if approved, VW will offer owners and lessees the option of having their vehicles modified to substantially reduce emissions in lieu of having the car bought back by VW,” added the ARB in the release.

Meanwhile, there are an estimated additional 80,000 vehicles equipped with 3.0-liter diesel motors also that have been targeted, apparently, for future recall action, the affected brands being VW, Audi and possibly Porsche also. Worldwide, some 11 million diesel-powered vehicles are affected in all.

When all is said and done, meaning all mitigation/redress plans are final, approved and fully implemented, will all concerned and affected be able to breathe a sigh of relief.

The sooner that day comes, the better.

This article was updated on June 30, 2016 at 7:14 a.m. P.D.T.