BY SUDHIN THANAWALA
SAN FRANCISCO — Several angry Volkswagen owners told a federal judge on Tuesday that a $10 billion settlement does not adequately compensate them for the automaker’s emissions cheating scandal.
Those owners objected to the settlement before U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer, who will determine whether the deal is fair to consumers and should receive final approval. He may not rule at the hearing.
We got played the fool,” Mark Dietrich, an Audi owner from San Francisco, told the judge. “This settlement does not go far enough.”
Dietrich demanded the full purchase price of his car as well as part of his registration fee.
The settlement calls for the German automaker to spend up to $10 billion to buy back or repair about 475,000 Volkswagens and Audi vehicles with 2-liter diesel engines and pay their owners an additional $5,100 to $10,000 each. Any repair options have yet to be finalized.
It also includes $4.7 billion for unspecified environmental mitigation to make up for the excess pollution and to promote zero-emissions vehicles. The combined $14.7 billion deal would be the largest auto-scandal settlement in U.S. history.
Attorneys who helped negotiate it said it was fair and had received support from the vast majority of eligible car owners. Volkswagen’s lawyer said Tuesday that it was a good deal for buyers and would help the company regain people’s trust.
But Blair Stewart, a Volkswagen owner in Palo Alto, said at the hearing that the company engaged in a “program of deception” that should not go unpunished.
The scandal erupted in September 2015 when the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency said Volkswagen had fitted many of its cars with software to fool emissions tests, putting dirty vehicles on the road. Car owners and the U.S. Department of Justice sued. The software recognized when the cars were being tested on a treadmill and turned on pollution controls. The controls were turned off when the cars returned to the road. The EPA alleged the scheme let the cars spew more than 40 times the allowable limit of nitrogen oxide, which can cause respiratory problems in people.
Robert Giuffra, an attorney for Volkswagen, said the deal includes compromises but provided “massive relief” to consumers.
“This settlement is something that I think is very good for consumers,” he said. “It’s good for the environment, and it’s a way for Volkswagen to regain the trust of its customers, the American people, regulators and do right by the environment.”
As of last week, more than 330,000 people had signed up for settlement benefits, with about 3,200 opting out, said Elizabeth Cabraser, lead attorney for the plaintiffs.
“This was a broken situation. It was broken for the environment. It was broken for consumers,” Cabraser said. “I think we’ve all, including Volkswagen – on the 2 liters – put this back together again.
Volkswagen still faces potentially billions more in fines and penalties and possible criminal charges.