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Volkswagen has started offering vouchers and other incentives to its customers who are angry about the ongoing emissions scandal. (Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg)

Volkswagen has extended a financial olive branch to its angry customers by offering owners of diesel-powered cars in Canada and the U.S. vouchers worth up to $1,000.

On Monday, the automaker extended the offer to 482,000 vehicle owners in the U.S. who drive one of the small two-litre, four-cylinder engines at the centre of the company's emissions scandal. The affected cars are all from the 2009 model-year onwards.

A spokesman with the company says the automaker is making a similar offer to Canadian owners of the vehicles, which consists of combination of a prepaid Visa card and credits to be used at the owner's discretion for any sales, service or car upgrade at Volkswagen dealerships.

The offer also includes free roadside assistance for the diesel vehicles for three years.

Worldwide, as many as 11 million cars could be equipped with "defeat device" software made to cheat emissions tests.

The offer is aimed at placating VW drivers who are upset that the cars they paid a premium price for are now worth much less than they were banking on. It also helps bridge the gap while their cars are being repaired and ridded of software that was designed to ace emissions tests while secretly belching out far more pollutants than is legally allowed in real-world driving conditions.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Association says in some cases, Volkswagens spew out up to 40 times the amount of nitrogen oxides than they are legally allowed to.

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

VW said that its Audi luxury brand would launch a similar program on Friday.

Owners will not be required to sign anything giving up their right to sue Volkswagen or forcing the company into arbitration, spokeswoman Jeannine Ginivan said Monday. "There are no strings attached," she said.

The company is facing more than 200 separate class-action lawsuits that have been filed in the U.S., causing diesel cars to drop in value.

Monday's offer comes on top of an existing promise to offer $2,000 US to current VW owners to trade in their cars for new models.

With files from The Associated Press