After years of uncertainty and months of delays, there is good news for owners of Volkswagen vehicles who were not initially part of a class action settlement in the diesel emissions scandal.
While owners of most affected vehicles with 2.0-litre engines — the first group to reach a settlement — say the compensation process moved quickly once the wrinkles were ironed out, it was a different story for owners of more expensive 3.0-litre TDI Volkswagens, Audis and Porsches, as well as 2.0-litre owners who imported their cars from the United States.
The 3.0-litre owners celebrated last week when class action lawyers announced Dec. 21 that they had reached an agreement in principle for approximately 20,000 Canadians who owned those vehicles.
Volkswagen used software to cheat emissions rules on nearly 600,000 U.S. vehicles and 100,000 in Canada.
“I’ll tell you, the mood was crazy happy that it happened when it did,” Cheryl Steadman told CBC News this week. “We got it in before year end, we got it in before Christmas, so everyone was very, very pleased that we’ve made that first step.”
Steadman was so frustrated with the process and a lack of agreement that the Saint John woman started a Facebook site for owners like herself to keep everyone updated on the situation.
Steadman said her group is the last in North America to go through the process. She said they’ve been waiting over two years since the scandal broke for some resolution.
“It’s been a long wait. A lot of frustration has built up,” she said, noting the vehicles are aging and owners have been “pouring money into vehicles” to ensure they will be eligible for buybacks.
“We’re delighted this is finally starting to move for us.”
Agreement still needs court approval
Details of the agreement and what owners can expect will be released in January, but a news release from one of the law firms involved says the agreement proposes emission repairs, cash payments and other options, depending on the vehicle.
The proposed agreement must be pre-approved by the courts and then all details will be released, giving owners the opportunity to agree or withdraw from the court action.
A final court approval is expected in the spring.
Processing for imports proceeding
A second group of affected Volkswagen owners, those who purchased their vehicles in the U.S. and then imported them to Canada, is also finally seeing action on its members’ claims.
That group, which owned 2.0-litre vehicles, was not initially part of the settlement. Eventually, Volkswagen agreed to compensate those owners, but many waited for months for their paperwork to be processed. Owners were required to submit their claims through the U.S. site, but it seemed unable to deal with the issue.
Quebec City resident Jesse Zimmer was frustrated by the delays in early November after six months of trying to get the site to accept his paperwork.
“It was a pain,” he told CBC News this week about his experience.
Just last week, he did receive an offer and is now optimistic about the outcome. He will be compensated in U.S. dollars and calls the offer “really good news.”
He is somewhat sad about returning his car.
“It was a great car in so many ways,” he said. “It’s too bad they lied about pollution.”
Alex MacLellan of Ketch Harbour, N.S., said he became “bogged down” while using the system and was unable to register for months.
Last week, he, too, received an offer.
Case ‘moved pretty quickly by legal standards’
Charles Wright, one of the lead class action lawyers, told CBC News while he’s no big fan of the conduct that started all these cases, he is pleased with the automaker’s response. Without a settlement, he said, the case could have dragged on for years.
“At the end of the day, sometimes companies who do things wrong fight for years and years and years,” he said. “VW actually moved pretty quickly here by legal standards, did step up and put in place settlements that do respond to what happened and are very fair to people and happened very quickly.”
He said lawyers are still trying to reach a settlement for owners of 3.0-litre vehicles that were imported into Canada.
They are also pursuing legal action against Robert Bosch GmbH, alleging that company specifically developed and sold software — the so-called “defeat device” — to Volkswagen.
The German company has settled a similar lawsuit in the U.S., which resulted in additional compensation for vehicle owners.