2016-10-26 21:58:13
Relief at Last for U.S. Owners of Diesel Volkswagens

For the owners of nearly a half-million diesel cars in the United States who have been caught up in Volkswagen’s emissions-cheating scandal, relief may finally be in sight.

On Tuesday, Judge Charles Breyer of the United States District Court in San Francisco gave final approval to an agreement calling for Volkswagen to spend $10 billion to buy back or fix those cars, whose diesel engines were equipped with software enabling the vehicles to pass emissions tests while spewing out far more pollutants than allowed during real-world driving. The cheating was disclosed in September 2015 by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Dealers are expected to begin buying back the cars early next month. Owners who would rather have their cars fixed may have to wait at least several weeks beyond that, until the E.P.A. approves a software solution that will work for most of the vehicles. Some owners, though, whose cars will require more than a software upgrade could have to wait a year or more.

All of which is why many analysts expect most affected owners to sell their cars back to Volkswagen.

“This is a relief,” said Kevin Helmich, owner of a 2010 Audi A3, who plans to sell his car back to the company.

A sales executive at a wind-energy company in Ann Arbor, Mich., Mr. Helmich said he bought the car because he believed Volkswagen’s claims that its fuel-efficient diesels help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. He said it has not felt good driving the car for the last year, or knowing he was deceived by the company.

“While I really like the car, I don’t like being lied to,” he said.

Owners who wish to sell their cars back to Volkswagen can register on a website, VWCourtSettlement.com. Under the agreement approved by Judge Breyer, Volkswagen will pay the full market value for the vehicles from before the company admitted its cheating in September 2015, and up to $10,000 in compensation money on top of that.

The actual price depends on the model and how many miles the owners have driven their cars.

Mr. Helmich said his car, with 108,000 miles on the odometer, will be purchased for just over $21,000. He originally paid $37,650 for it. “It’s a reasonable deal,” he said. “I’m just waiting to hear when the car will be bought back.”

He’s already got a new environmentally friendly ride in mind: an all-electric, battery-powered Chevrolet Bolt, which General Motors has said can go 238 miles before needing to recharge.

Affected models for the buyback include diesel versions of the VW Beetle, Golf, Jetta and Passat, and the Audi A3, with 2.0-liter engines, from the model years 2009 to 2015.

Some of those cars have different versions of Volkswagen’s 2.0-liter diesel engines that require a more complicated software fix and possibly additional hardware to reduce their emissions to acceptable levels.

Owners who opt for a fix will also be paid $5,100 to $10,000 in compensation, depending on the model they own.

Matt DeLorenzo, an analyst at Kelley Blue Book, is among those who predict most owners will sell their cars back to Volkswagen. “I think a lot of the customers have been in limbo for a long time and they’ll feel a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” he said.

In approving the settlement, Judge Breyer described it as “fair, reasonable and adequate,” and dismissed objections by nearly two dozen owners who criticized the pact in an Oct. 18 hearing. Most complained that the compensation Volkswagen is paying is inadequate or the company wasn’t being punished enough.

But Judge Breyer said “the priority is to get the polluting cars off the road as soon as possible.”

Volkswagen said some 340,000 diesel car owners have registered at the website so far. Some 3,200 have chosen to opt out of the settlement agreement, the company said, and may join class-action suits seeking more compensation.

The scandal has taken a heavy toll on the automaker. In addition to the $10 billion it will use to buy back affected cars and compensate American owners, it also agreed to spend $4.7 billion on environmental projects in the United States.

In a statement on Tuesday, Hinrich J. Woebcken, chief executive and president of Volkswagen Group of America, said the settlement marked “an important milestone in our journey to making things right in the United States.”

Many Volkswagen dealers have set up special services to help diesel customers.

At Williams AutoWorld in Lansing, Mich., the owner, Jeff Williams, has added a concierge to greet diesel owners and walk them through the process of selling their cars back to Volkswagen.

“We’ve done training, webinars, so I think we are ready for it,” Mr. Williams said. “We want to make them feel comfortable.”

Alan Brown, owner of a Volkswagen franchise in Lewisville, Tex., has taken similar measures. He has assigned two managers to assist customers and instructed them to leave it to customers to decide if they want to consider replacing their diesel model with a new Volkswagen.

“We definitely want it to be a no-pressure situation,” Mr. Brown said. “We want that to be about the customer who’s been affected being made whole.”