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Volkswagen Emissions Investigation

The Office of the New York State Attorney General is one of the leaders of an investigation by more than 40 States into Volkswagen’s installation of software devices that caused its diesel vehicles to cheat on environmental pollution tests.

On March 30, 2017, the New York Attorney General announced his Office’s role in a settlement of related claims against Volkswagen.  That settlement resolves the claims of ten states against Volkswagen for violations of state auto emissions laws.  Under the settlement, which marks the first time New York and the other settling states have obtained penalties against manufacturers for violations of their own state auto emissions laws, Volkswagen will pay over $157 million, including $32.5 million to New York.  Also as part of today’s settlement, Volkswagen has agreed to substantially increase its commitment to New York’s emerging electric car market, tripling by 2020 the number of electric car models its Volkswagen, Porsche and Audi brands offer to New Yorkers, including two electric SUVs.  In addition, as part of related settlements involving the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”), New York is expected to receive more than $127 million from a $2.9 billion nationwide environmental mitigation fund, which will be used for air quality improvements within the state. 

This settlement resolves the lawsuits filed against Volkswagen and its affiliates on July 19, 2016 by the New York Attorney General and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and later joined by other states.  The lawsuit alleged that defendants’ diesel automobiles (including over 25,000 sold in New York) were fitted with illegal “defeat devices” that concealed illegal amounts of harmful emissions these cars spewed–and that the defendants then attempted to cover-up their behavior.  You can learn more about that lawsuit here.

Previously, on June 28, 2016, the New York Attorney General announced the Office’s role in a settlement of related consumer claims against Volkswagen.  That settlement resolved the States’ claims for Volkswagen’s violations of false advertising and consumer protection laws.  The settlement also resolved large parts of a federal EPA lawsuit, a Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) lawsuit and consumer class action lawsuits that were filed in federal court in San Francisco.  In addition to paying hundreds of millions of dollars in penalties to the States, Volkswagen has agreed to provide consumers with the option to either sell affected vehicles back to Volkswagen, or to have the vehicles repaired to fix the emissions violations, and to pay consumers thousands of additional dollars in restitution.   

Where can I learn more about the settlement?

The details and information about the benefits of the settlement for consumers, including instructions on how to determine if your vehicle is covered by the settlement and how to apply for a buyback or fix, are available at the VW settlement website at www.VWCourtSettlement.com and additional information about the settlement is available at the FTC website, www.ftc.gov/VWSettlement.

What vehicles are covered by this Settlement?

Although the diesel emissions fraud involved “defeat devices” installed in both 2.0 liter and 3.0 liter diesel engine cars and SUVs, currently the settlement claims process covers only vehicles with the 2.0 liter engines.  The specific 2.0 liter diesel engine vehicles covered by the settlement are the following vehicles purchased or leased in the U.S.:

2.0 Liter Diesel Models:

  • Jetta (2009-2015)
  • Jetta Sportwagen (2009-2014)
  • Audi A3 (2010-2015)
  • Golf (2010-2015)
  • Golf Sportwagen (2015)
  • Beetle (2013-2015)
  • Beetle Convertible (2013-2015)
  • Passat (2012-2015)

An estimated 21,500 consumers in New York purchased or leased these 2.0 liter diesel vehicles. 

A settlement on the 3.0 liter vehicles has been reached and is still in the process of court approval, which is anticipated by May, 2017.  Nearly 4,000 consumers in New York purchased or leased these 3.0 liter diesel vehicles, which include the following:

3.0 Liter Diesel Models:

  • Volkswagen Touareg (2009-2016)
  • Porsche Cayenne (2013-2016)
  • Audi A6 Quattro (2014-2016)
  • Audi A7 Quattro (2014-2016)
  • Audi A8L (2014-2016)
  • Audi Q5 (2014-2016)
  • Audi Q7 (2009 – 2015) 

What options does the settlement provide for consumers?

Consumers who purchased an affected 2.0 liter vehicle have the option of either:  1) selling it back to Volkswagen, or 2) having it fixed with an Approved Emissions Modification.  Under either option, consumers will also receive additional restitution from Volkswagen.

Consumers who leased an affected 2.0 liter vehicle have a similar option to either:  1) terminate the lease with no penalty, or 2) have the car fixed with an Approved Emissions Modification.  Under either option, lessees will also receive additional restitution from Volkswagen. 

While the settlement that was reached for consumers who purchased or leased a 3.0 liter vehicle is still awaiting approval by the court, if that settlement is approved, then:

Consumers who purchased or leased a 3.0 liter Generation One vehicle (i.e., a Volkswagen Touareg (2009-2012) or Audi Q7 (2009-2012)) will receive the same options between a buyback or fix (plus additional restitution) as are listed above for the 2.0 liter vehicles.

Consumers who purchased or leased a 3.0 liter Generation Two vehicle (i.e., an Audi A6, Audi A7, Audi A8/A8L, Audi Q5, Porsche Cayenne, Volkswagen Touareg (2013-2016) or Audi Q7 (2013-2016)) will receive an emissions repair that is intended to make the vehicles fully compliant with emissions standards without any material impairment of performance, plus additional restitution.  If regulators determine that Volkswagen’s proposed repair for the Generation Two vehicles will not accomplish this goal by certain deadlines in late 2017, then these consumers will receive the same options between a buyback or fix (plus additional restitution) as are listed above for the 2.0 liter vehicles.

What will consumers who buyback their vehicle receive?

For car owners who choose the Buyback option, Volkswagen will pay the National Automobile Dealers Association (“NADA”) value of the car as of September 2015 when the Volkswagen fraud became public, plus an additional cash payment as “Owner Restitution.”  The minimum Owner Restitution payment for any vehicle—to be paid on top of the vehicle value—will be a minimum of $5,100, and some class members may receive as much as $13,000 or more.

For those owners who sold the car after September 18, 2015, the settlement equitably divides the Owner Restitution payment approximately 50/50 between the previous owner before September 18, 2015 and the current owner.

What will consumers who fix their vehicle receive?

Car owners who want to keep their vehicle and get it fixed and modified to meet the EPA emissions requirements will need to wait for final EPA approval of Volkswagen’s proposed engine modifications.  Once a modification is approved, consumers can bring their vehicle into a local dealership to be fixed at no cost to them; they also will receive at that time an Owner Restitution payment as described above.  That means owners who keep their cars will receive at least $5,100 each, in addition to the repairs at no cost.  Volkswagen will also offer extended warranties and disclosures of the modifications made to fix the emissions problem.
Note that the EPA approval process might not be complete for many months, perhaps as late as 2018 for some engine models.  Consumers who want to keep their vehicles will therefore need to wait to find out whether their car can be fixed with an Approved Emission Modification. 

If a modification for a particular engine type ultimately is not approved, owners who waited for a potential repair and fix would be eligible to get a Buyback on the same terms as described above.  

What are the options for consumers who leased their vehicle?

Lessees may terminate their leases without any termination fee and receive a cash Restitution payment equal to approximately half of what the owner of the identical car would receive under the buyback plan.  Consumers with an active lease who want to hold on to their cars may choose to wait to see whether there will be an Approved Emissions Modification for their car, as described above.  If those lessees elect to keep their cars under their leases with the repairs, they too will receive Restitution. 

When may I choose and receive my benefits?

The Volkswagen settlement website, www.VWCourtSettlement.com, allows consumers to enter their Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and mileage to see the exact Vehicle Value and Owner (or Lessee) Restitution amount for their vehicle, based on its model year, trim line, and factory options.
Volkswagen has committed to processing approximately 5,000 bought back cars per week and began the Buyback program for 2.0 liter vehicles in the fall of 2016. 

May I use my vehicles while I wait for a fix or buyback?

Owners and lessees may continue to drive their vehicles while awaiting a fix or buyback, even if the car might fail a state inspection.  Once an acceptable emissions system modification is acceptable, however, New York strongly encourages owners and lessees to either obtain the emissions fix or sell their vehicle back to Volkswagen. 

What should do I do next to get my buyback or fix?

Consumers who have an affected 2.0 liter vehicle should have already received notice from Volkswagen. Assuming the court approves the 3.0 liter settlement as expected, those with 3.0 liter vehicles should begin receiving notice shortly after the court’s approval of that settlement, which will explain in more detail the process for obtaining a fix or buyback.  In the meantime, consumers who believe they have an affected vehicle should go to the Volkswagen or FTC websites listed above and follow the appropriate steps to determine eligibility and to participate in any of the available remedies. In addition, many consumers will receive notices from the federal court regarding their rights as potential beneficiaries of the private class action lawsuits filed against Volkswagen.  Those court class action notices will contain important information about the legal rights of Volkswagen owners and lessees, including instructions for participating in the program or opting out.  New York is not administering the program, processing any claims or handling any disputes. 

What is the problem with Volkswagen’s diesel vehicles?

Volkswagen installed software in certain diesel vehicles that turns on the vehicles’ pollution control system for certain air-pollutants under testing conditions, thus allowing it to meet EPA and state emissions standards during emission tests.  The software, called a “defeat device,” then switches off during real-world driving conditions.  As a result, Volkswagen’s diesel vehicles emit as much as 40 times the amount of certain pollutants permitted by Federal and State environmental standards.  In September 2015, EPA issued a notice of violation of the Clean Air Act to Volkswagen for producing and selling diesel vehicles with this software.