If you’re one of the half-million Volkswagen owners who recently got the bad news that your clean diesel is anything but, these have not been a good couple of weeks. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like things will be sorted out anytime soon. So what’s next?
As tempting as it may be to either sell or trade your TDI immediately just so you don’t have to look at it, that’s not the most financially prudent move. The reality is that you’ve most likely taken a loss already, and waiting until things are resolved is unlikely to make that worse. In the mean time, it’s still legal and safe to drive. And for better or worse, you’re not polluting the atmosphere any more now than you were a couple of weeks ago.
Volkswagen is working on a fix, and a recall is inevitably in the works. Whether that will involve retrofitting your car with additional emissions control equipment, tweaking some software, or some combination of both remains to be seen. And what effect that might have on performance and fuel economy is also unknown, as is how long any of that will take, what it will cost, and who will pick up the tab.
The same goes for rumors that Volkswagen will offer monetary compensation to owners, or how much that will be. One thing that seems reasonably certain is that it is unlikely VW will buy the cars back from unhappy owners - many of whom - including some customers of a Connecticut dealer we spoke with - have been clamoring for the carmaker to do just that.
“We know that VW is going to fix the issue and make things right,” said the dealer, who chose to remain anonymous. “We are telling our clients to sit tight. We suspect there may be some incentives for TDI drivers, so it would be best for owners to see what VW comes out with rather than trading in now.”
One thing you can do while you wait is to sign on with one of the many class action lawsuits that have been filed against Volkswagen - more than 230 according to the Los Angeles Times. A few quality seconds with Google is all it takes to find a bunch of them.
It’s way too early to predict how much cash you might see by joining a class action, but it’s unlikely it’ll be enough for a retirement villa in the Caribbean. But if you’re one of the many VW owners who bought their cars at least in part as a means of making a statement and doing something good for the planet, this is not just about money. This is about holding Volkswagen accountable, something that isn’t easy for a lone owner to do on their own.
“A class action gives consumers the tools to fight a large corporation,” said Amy Williams-Derry, a Seattle, WA, based attorney with law firm Keller Rohrback. “It allows consumers to aggregate claims and hold companies accountable.”
Amy should know. Keller Rohrback specializes in environmental cases nationwide, and its resume includes representing Alaskan fishermen impacted by the oil tanker Exxon Valdez spill of 1989 - the largest man-made environmental disaster in history at the time.
If you’d like to get on the bandwagon, Williams-Derry says to choose a law firm carefully. Check out the websites of any firm you’re considering, look at the types of cases they handle, and what their track record has been. Don’t be afraid to be blunt.
“Ask the firm about their experience in that area,” she said. “And look for a law firm with the resources and history to take on VW.”
Williams-Derry also advises that it’s important to talk to an attorney handling the case, and make sure you choose one that you’re comfortable with. “It’s not unlike any other decision,” she said. “It’s important to choose a personality that fits.”
Perhaps the best piece of free legal advice Williams-Derry gave us is that owners should be wary of any advertisements or solicitations from a mechanic or dealer saying they have a fix for your VW. If the bottom feeders haven’t already surfaced, they’re undoubtedly about to.
“I would wait for an official notice,” she said. “Look for a large scale national announcement of a fix.”
Volkswagen declined to comment for this story, but the carmaker has set up an informational website for owners to monitor progress at http://www.vwdieselinfo.com. In addition to listing specific models affected, the site promises to keep owners up to date about developments. At the moment, that’s not much more than reading some corporate apologies, and watching a video of Volkswagen Group of America President and CEO Michael Horn doing the same.
“Our company betrayed the trust of you, our customers, our employees, our dealers and the public,” said Horn. “Owners of these vehicles do not need to take any action at this time. Once we have information regarding a remedy, consumers will be notified.”