DETROIT — Volkswagen owners — including at least 21,500 in New York — can finally dump their cheatin’ cars, if they want to.
The German automaker has agreed to an unprecedented U.S. settlement to make things right after admitting that it programmed about half a million of its diesel cars to cheat on emissions tests. When driven on the road, the vehicles put out levels of nitrous oxide well above U.S. pollution standards.
If the $15.3 billion settlement with owners and government agencies announced Tuesday is approved by a federal judge — which could happen as early as this fall — Volkswagen will spend more than $10 billion to either buy back or fix the cars and compensate owners for their trouble.
In New York State, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said more than 21,500 owners of 2.0 liter, 4-cylinder engine VW and Audi diesel cars will be entitled to be paid full, pre-scandal fair market value for their vehicle, in addition to a cash payment of at least $5,100. Car owners may also choose to keep their vehicle and wait to see if VW and Audi develop acceptable emissions fixes; car owners who exercise this option will also receive a cash payment of at least $5,100, Schneiderman said.
The settlements will also direct to New York over $115 million for environmental projects to improve New York’s air quality, as well as over $30 in additional monetary recoveries for the state’s general fund, he said
Here are answers to questions about the deal, which is the largest class-action settlement in the history of the American auto industry:
Q: What exactly am I getting from VW?
A: You can choose. VW will buy back your car — regardless of its condition — at the trade-in price before the cheating was made public on Sept. 18, 2015. Or the company will fix your car. The fix has not been determined and still must be approved by regulators. VW is expected to submit possible fixes beginning in November.
In either case, VW will pay you $5,100 to $10,000 for your trouble, depending on the age of the car. Buybacks will begin this fall if the settlement is approved. Owners will have until Sept. 1, 2018 to make a decision.
Q: How much are these cars worth?
A: A typical 2009 Jetta diesel was worth about $8,400 before the scandal, according to Kelley Blue Book. A 2014 Jetta diesel is worth about $18,500.
Q: Should I take the buyback or the fix?
A: It depends. From a financial standpoint, it’s best to wait because you can keep driving your car for two years or even longer before you have to decide. If you wait, you’ll still get the clean trade-in value from before the scandal was made public. But you’re continuing to pollute the air while you drive. If you like driving your older diesel, you should keep in mind that any repairs will be extensive and will likely hurt your gas mileage and performance.
Q: I own a 3-liter V6 Volkswagen. What happens to me?
A: That’s still being worked out. You are not covered by the package announced Tuesday.
Q. Where can I learn more?
A. The official web site is vwcourtsettlement.com.
— With staff reports