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Volkswagen Is Offering Diesel Drivers $1,000 as Apology

In the wake of the emissions test scandal, the company is trying a number of strategies to win back driver trust.

by Kaleigh Rogers
Nov 9 2015, 4:30pm

Image: Erik Söderström/Flickr

After cheating on emissions tests and misleading the public about how efficient its clean diesel vehicles were, Volkswagen is now attempting to make amends with its US diesel drivers by giving them free money.

The automotive giant announced Monday that US drivers who own eligible models can collect a $500 prepaid card to use on whatever they want, and another $500 to use at a Volkswagen dealership. It's calling the payouts the "TDI Goodwill Program."

"We are working tirelessly to develop an approved remedy for affected vehicles," said Michael Horn, the CEO of VW US, in a press release. "In the meantime we are providing this goodwill package as a first step towards regaining our customers' trust."

Related: Can Clean Diesel Survive the Volkswagen Scandal?

In September, the Environmental Protection Agency revealed that Volkswagen had installed software on many of its diesel vehicles that detected when the cars were being tested and would decrease emissions to meet standards. But once those cars were out on the road, they spewed out more than 40 times the allowable limits of nitrous oxide. Volkswagen came clean, admitting that 11 million vehicles worldwide were equipped with the software, about half a million of those in the US.

Although Volkswagen has already issued a recall on the affected vehicles—diesel Golfs, Passats, Beetles, Jettas and Audi A3s made since 2009—the scandal has left many drivers disenchanted with the brand. The company's stock plummeted 50 percent after the news broke, and it has been ramping up offers to try to entice car buyers, including offering $2,000 to current drivers if they stick with the brand and buy or lease a new Volkswagen. It's also facing up to $18 billion in fines from the EPA.

And the free $1,000 still might not be enough to placate angry drivers, many of whom have joined the dozens of lawsuits filed against the company in the wake of the scandal. The new gift card offer comes with "no strings attached" and won't prevent drivers from continuing with lawsuits, a spokesperson at Volkswagen told the Associated Press.

Many have been left wondering why the company would risk consumer trust by manipulating tests in this way. Part of the answer may have to do with Volkswagen's former CEO, Martin Winterkorn, who stepped down in September. Engineers at the company have said Winterkorn made near-impossible demands for emissions, and that negotiating with the former head was not an option. The company has also suspended five executives since the news broke, indicating that mistrust runs deep in the German-based corporation. Both internally and externally, this isn't going to be a mistake that Volkswagen can recover from easily—and $1,000 gift cards alone probably aren't going to do the trick.