Volkswagen settlements move ahead, but some owners 'totally up in the air'
Drivers with imported vehicles, higher-end models still waiting for emissions-scandal compensation details
Some Canadian owners of Volkswagens at the centre of the diesel-emissions scandal are still awaiting word on how they will be compensated, six months after the company agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit.
While owners of vehicles with 2.0-litre engines have seen the settlement process move quickly — at least once the initial wrinkles were ironed out — it's not been nearly as easy for those with imported or higher-end vehicles affected by the carmaker's emissions-cheating software.
"It's totally up in the air," said Quebec City resident Jesse Zimmer, who owns a 2010 Golf TDI bought by his father in Connecticut and subsequently given to him and imported into Canada when his father died.
"I've never, ever received a formal offer yet, so I really have no idea how much they will offer me," he said. "Will in it be in Canadian dollars? U.S. dollars? Will it ever happen?"
Last year, a U.S. judge approved a $15-billion court settlement of most claims against Volkswagen. And this spring, a Canadian court approved a $2.1-billion settlement that will see Volkswagen compensate Canadians who purchased or leased roughly 105,000 vehicles with 2.0-litre TDI engines.
Another 700 Canadian owners who bought their vehicles in the U.S. were not included and Volkswagen subsequently agreed to extend the benefits of the U.S. settlement to Canadians with imported vehicles.
Still, many were bounced back and forth between company officials in the two countries when they inquired about compensation.
That frustration continues for Zimmer and others who filed paperwork months ago but have not received an offer.
"I periodically call the claims representative or go on the portal chat to ask for an update and it's always the same thing: 'Sorry, we have no information at this time. We haven't worked out a process for people in your situation yet,'" Zimmer said.
'Lipstick on a pig'
A Volkswagen Canada spokesperson told CBC News the process is not a simple one.
"We are working through these claims, although each one must be handled individually and separately from the automated claims process to address cross-border logistical issues," Thomas Tetzlaff said in an email.
Charles Wright, one of the lead lawyers in the Canadian class action, said while the process has been slow, his information is that those claims are now being processed.
"People should be able to now start to get offers on their claims — hopefully now or very, very soon," he said, adding owners can contact his firm, and lawyers "will make inquiries and see what we can do."
Meanwhile, members of another group of Canadian owners — those with 3.0-litre Volkswagens, Audis and Porsches — are still waiting to learn their fate.
Stewart Gregg, who owns a 2010 Touareg Sport Highline, has considered trading in his vehicle, but the offers have been either low or non-existent.
The U.S. settlement offers 3.0-litre owners a buyback plus payment or a fix plus payment, however no such deal has yet been struck in Canada. An estimated 17,000 to 18,000 Canadians own 3.0-litre vehicles.
"It's super frustrating when you have essentially a precedent going on south of the border for the exact same vehicle with the exact same problem, and yet we're not being dealt with," said Gregg.
Gregg said he has lost all trust in Volkswagen and will not buy another one — even though he likes the styling and the look. "It's like lipstick on a pig. It's still a pig at the end of the day, so I'm not interested anymore. I'll look elsewhere."
Keeping the 'lost group' informed
Saint John resident Cheryl Steadman set up a Facebook page, Canadian VW/Audi/Porsche V6 3.0 TDI Forum, to keep owners apprised of updates for this "lost group."
It's now more than 975 members strong, and Steadman said many worry their vehicles are aging. She, like others, has parked her 2011 Touareg because it needs new tires and other work.
"I didn't want to throw money into a vehicle that might be scrapped or that I'm not going to get any value from."
Steadman said some of the Facebook group's members have suggested Volkswagen is dragging its feet on the premise that as time goes by, owners will die and vehicles will be involved in accidents, making them ineligible for a settlement.
"I'd like to think that's not the case, but after the choices they made in the beginning, I wouldn't put it past them," she said.
Steadman said she and the others are still awaiting word from the class-action lawyers who, along with Volkswagen, agreed to delay a September hearing to discuss class-action certification for the 3.0-litre group.
Lawyer Wright said the ongoing negotiations are confidential, but the delay isn't a bad thing: it suggests the two sides are making progress on an agreement, rather than simply forging ahead in litigation.
Steadman said she hopes she and other 3.0-litre owners see a settlement, but she worries the value of their vehicles will continue to drop as time goes by.
"It just needs to be done," she said. "It's something that's been hanging over our heads for a couple of years. We need to move on."