The biggest auto-scandal settlement in U.S. history was just approved. VW buybacks start soon

Volkswagen took a big step toward trying to fix its tattered reputation Tuesday as a federal judge formally approved a $14.7-billion settlement of the automaker’s emissions cheating case.

The deal is the largest auto scandal settlement in U.S. history and paves the way for the company to make amends to 475,000 U.S. owners of Volkswagens and Audis with 2-liter diesel engines. Motorists can now have their cars bought back or modified by Volkswagen and receive additional cash compensation up to $10,000 each.

The cars affected by the agreement include Volkswagen’s popular Beetles, Golfs, Jettas and Passats. Some Audi A3s also are covered.

The pact approved by U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer in San Francisco ended a year of uncertainty about whether the automaker would compensate drivers who bought cars that Volkswagen had secretly designed to underreport emissions.

The VW scandal erupted in 2015 when Volkswagen admitted that it had installed “cheat devices” on diesel-powered cars from 2009 through 2015. The devices enabled the vehicles’ engines to emit substantially fewer pollutants during emissions tests than during normal road use.

The uproar involved nearly 600,000 cars in the United States, including about 71,000 in California, and 11 million Volkswagen vehicles worldwide.

Since the cheating controversy began, Volkswagen’s U.S. sales have tumbled, its dealers suffered losses, the German automaker’s executive ranks were shuffled, and VW’s reputation was smeared as the company negotiated the settlement with U.S. and California regulators and lawyers for the affected car owners.

Volkswagen said Tuesday that it would start to implement the U.S. settlement immediately and that it was hiring 900 people to help with the buybacks, including one employee to be stationed at each of its 652 U.S. dealerships.

The automaker also has a website,, with details about the settlement and instructions for people who own or lease affected cars. Terms of the settlement and a list of the vehicles involved also are available at on the court’s website.

The settlement “is an important milestone in our journey to make things right in the United States,” Hinrich Woebcken, chief executive of Volkswagen Group of America Inc., said in a statement.

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