Auto Emissions Scandal: Volkwagen taking steps to placate its customers

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DETROIT >> Owners of 482,000 diesel Volkswagens and Audis in the U.S. are eligible for $1,000 in gift cards and vouchers as the automaker strives to placate customers dismayed by an emissions-rigging scandal.

VW announced the offer Monday. The car owners have been in limbo since mid-September, when VW admitted the cars are equipped with software that turns on pollution controls during government tests and turns them off while on the road.

VW has yet to unveil a fix for the cars. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says the cars, with 2-liter four-cylinder diesel engines, emit 10 to 40 times the allowable amount of harmful nitrogen oxide while being driven.

"The problem that most of us suffer from is we're in never-never land so this at least gives us some compensation until they figure it out," said Bob Rand, a retired judge in Pasadena, California, who says he and his wife have owned at least a dozen new Volkswagens over the years.

The $500 Visa gift card can be used anywhere, while the $500 voucher can be used at a VW dealership for things such as an oil change or new set of tires, or even a down payment on a new car. The offer also includes free roadside assistance for the diesel vehicles for three years.

Working on solution

"We are working tirelessly to develop an approved remedy for affected vehicles," said Michael Horn, VW's U.S. CEO, said in a statement. "In the meantime we are providing this goodwill package as a first step towards regaining our customers' trust."

Steve Kalafer, chairman of the Flemington Car and Truck Country dealerships in Flemington, New Jersey, said Volkswagen's offer is a welcome first step after a long silence between the automaker, its customers and its U.S. retailers.

Kalafer said he hasn't heard yet from any customers about Volkswagen's offer, but he expects they'll want more from the company to address the many issues raised by the emissions scandal.

"They will appreciate the communication, but I imagine that until a real resolution is found that appreciation will be muted," he said.

Whatever fix VW designs could wind up hurting performance or perhaps fuel mileage, the two main reasons why people buy diesels. More than 200 class-action lawsuits have been filed in the U.S. against VW alleging that the scandal caused the diesel cars to drop in value.

Average auction prices of VW diesel models have dropped nearly $2,100, or 16 percent, since the announcement, while VW gasoline models have fallen 4 percent, Kelley Blue Book said Monday.

Josh Badall, of Phoenix, Arizona, just sold his 2009 Jetta TDI because of the scandal as well as a host of mechanical problems.

He bought the car used for $9,000 in 2013 and recently sold if for less than the Kelley Blue Book value, at $6,500.

"I don't think solving it in a retrospective manner like that really changes a whole lot of anything, especially considering the value of those vehicles."


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