Sitting since 2015, cars receive software fix and sold with high incentives, mostly to people already with deposits
Wanna buy a new 2015 Volkswagen diesel?
That’s a trick question. Even though the vehicles, those at the centre of one of the automotive industry’s largest controversies in its history, were released for sale on April 12th, they’re already long gone. The 2.0-litre TDI-equipped vehicles had been quarantined in the wake of Dieselgate, the world-wide emissions cheating scandal that brought the German automotive giant to its knees.
Since the discovery that VW had been intentionally, deviously, futzing with the pollution control software on many of its diesel cars since 2009, North American owners spent more than a year in limbo, awaiting settlement options for their tainted vehicles. When they were finally announced, those settlements were generous; depending on the age and condition of their vehicle, owners could see compensation that amounted to either a fix plus a payment of between $5,100 to $8,000, or a buyback based on the value of the car pre-scandal, plus that payment.
In the meantime, inventory already on dealer lots was frozen. With the announcement of an approved fix by the EPA in the U.S. (and accepted in Canada), those impounded cars were cleared for sale. It’s a move a lot of people were betting on, and a local dealer told me the 43 cars he had in stock were gone in a couple of days.
“Most of those cars had deposits on them all this time,” explained Sean McLaughlin, business manager at Roseland Motors Ltd. in Burlington, Ontario. “Some may have been speculators, but most are loyal VW customers.” The released cars came with a good wallop of incentives for buyers willing to head back into the diesel waters. Take the 2015 Passat TDI, for example. Dealers were authorized to give buyers 0 per cent financing for 60 months plus $7,500 finance cash, or up to $9,500 cash. If you bought one, I hope you worked the deal, hard.
What if you had an affected car and have already taken the VW money and ran? Are you allowed to double dip? Indeed. They’re two separate transactions, according to Thomas Tetzlaff, manager of public relations for Volkswagen Canada. McLaughlin agrees, again pointing out that most of those scarce-on-the-ground 2015s went to long-time customers.
The newly released cars already will have had the first of the two-phase fix done to them, a software reflashing that Volkswagen Canada says goes most of the way to correcting the emissions problem.
“The follow-up fix, that we anticipate being ready in about a year, will be a hardware one, installing things like a particulate filter with greater longevity,” explained Tetzlaff.
Should you have been rushing to purchase one of these cars? Or be disappointed that you missed the lottery? That depends.
The Automobile Protection Association (APA) reminds you to keep in mind these vehicles are two years old, and in some cases more. They’ve been stored in anticipation of the court rulings and, while they may look like new cars with zero kilometres on them, consumers should be aware there could be latent problems in the event they were not cared for properly. Tires can develop flat spots – those tires have also had their lifespan used up, even sitting – brake lines could become corroded, and they’ve been subject to the outdoor elements.
“The APA’s position is that the settlement offer is a good one, and consumers are well served by taking advantage of it and moving into a new car of their choosing, or another VW gasoline engine,” says John Raymond of the APA. Those consumers are falling into three categories: those who ditch their diesels for the cash, those who accept the “sorry” cash and get their cars fixed but keep them, and a few diehards who will not surrender their beloved TDIs at all.
There’s a reason for that. With the amendments, the performance of these cars will be affected in two ways. First is how they drive, and second is their fuel economy. Those cheats enabled VW to deliver that famous diesel torque and 1,000-kilometre range to a tank of fuel. The fixes will impact both of those things. The APA maintains, however, that if VW found a way to cheat, there’s no reason they shouldn’t be able to find a way to fix it. Just be prepared to compromise.
I asked Tetzlaff what steps dealers have been taking to offset these concerns, and how much help the parent company has given them.
“First, remember that this was September of 2015 when sales were halted, so we were getting to the last of the inventory. Dealers have been storing them, but many cars, not just these ones, are stored for periods of time by dealers. We had them on a 30-day basis, which means dealers were compensated for monthly upkeep on all of those cars, doing battery checks and keeping them ready for sale.”
The APA warns significant time has passed, but Tetzlaff says VW has created a pre-delivery inspection that will alleviate any concerns.
“The PDI checklist is exhaustive,” he explains. “Fluids, tires, rotors and extensive warranty. These cars are as good as anything you can buy that was made yesterday.” He also notes there is a high degree of certainty that we have seen the last of diesel passenger vehicles from VW in this country.
It may be the end of an era, but it’s one that Volkswagen will forever be tied to.