Volkswagen has agreed to a deal in federal court to repurchase or fix close to 500,000 diesel cars that cheat on emission tests, though Beetle owner Lisa Lowrance of Boynton Beach said Thursday she needs to learn more to judge how much this clears the air.
“I’m waiting to find out details, though it’s hard to have a reaction other than Volkswagen is a deceitful company I don’t have much trust in right now,” she said.
What was publicly revealed Thursday looks promising to some consumer groups, and one South Florida attorney even calls it “unprecedented” as far as he can see. Still, many details and dollar figures have yet to be disclosed and officials in some states warned it doesn’t let VW off the hook for all consequences of its deception.
Federal officials say the car company designed software that turned on certain emission controls during testing but turned them off during normal driving, cranking out up to 40 times the allowable pollutants.
“VW is committed to winning back the trust of its customers, its dealers, regulators and all Americans,” VW attorney Robert Giuffra told the court. He called the deal “good for the consumers, the environment, and good for Volkswagen.”
The deal in federal court “does not in any way resolve the consumer and environmental penalty claims of the states, or the states’ claims for injunctive relief,” said New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.
A multistate coalition led by New York and including Florida “continues to vigorously investigate Volkswagen’s misconduct, and will aggressively pursue the recovery of substantial penalties and other appropriate relief,” he said.
The broad outlines seem to include characteristics of a deal consumer advocates have been pushing, said Mike Litt, Consumer Program Advocate at U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund in Washington, D.C.
“Seven months after news of Volkswagen’s emission scandal broke, we’re glad to hear that there is a ‘framework’ for a settlement in the cases related to VW’s 567,000 fraudulently marketed, illegally polluting cars,” Litt said in a statement. “This framework appears to include all of the elements that a deal should include, but the devil will be in the details.”
Miami attorney Ted Craig, who is not involved in VW litigation but whose firm has defended other companies from suits, said based on information publicly available it looks like no ordinary deal.
“As far as I can tell it is an unprecedented remedy,” Craig said. VW has reason to get things settled, he said: “From a marketing and reputational standpoint, you want to clear up your image as soon as possible.”