Several Canadians who own Volkswagen diesel vehicles affected by the emissions scandal say their VW dealers are doing a great job for customers, but the automaker itself and courts on the other could do much more.
Alan Thygesen of Conception Bay, Nfld., owns a 2011 Jetta and said he initially found out about the scandal through the media.
“When it happened on the news and they said it was Volkswagen, I talked to our salesman about it,” he said. “He knew about it, but didn’t know how far it was going to go. Volkswagen gave us two MasterCards through the mail in December 2015, and I would say that was probably the first of the admission [from the automaker].
“The dealership has been fine with us, and that’s one thing I need to stress. They’ve always treated me well, and that’s the one thing that hasn’t been such a huge, bitter pill.”
As far as the automaker goes, Thygesen said it has been going on so long that “we feel they are dragging their feet on this.”
While lawyers representing owners and Volkswagen Canada agreed to a proposal for cash buybacks based on Canadian Black Book’s 2015 value, plus damages, an Ontario Superior Court judge held over the hearing on March 31, citing Ontario’s Consumer Protection Act that could potentially reimburse owners for their full purchase price.
Heather Dennis of Lunenburg, NS, put a deposit on a new Alltrack, but is waiting to see what she’ll get for her 2012 Jetta wagon. Salespeople at the dealership were “just as flummoxed [as me] at what happened,” she said. Her new purchase is contingent on what she’ll be offered for the Jetta.
The proposed settlement would give owners used-vehicle wholesale value as of September 18, 2015, when the news became public. Each vehicle’s current mileage will factor into the equation but may not be as big an issue as some think, according to Volkswagen Canada spokesperson Thomas Tetzlaff.
“In order for us to value the car, we’ll look at the mileage today, because we don’t know what it was in September 2015,” he said.
The mileage will slot the vehicle into one of Canadian Black Book’s categories for evaluation, Tetzlaff said, but if owners have continued to drive a similar number of kilometres each year, “there should not be a substantial effect on its valuation.”
Only mileage will be taken into account, not the vehicle’s physical condition, Tetzlaff said, unless it’s written off and becomes an insurance claim. Since the matter is still before the courts, Canadian Black Book declined to comment on the specifics of the valuation process.
Some Audi vehicles are also affected by the scandal and included in the proposed settlement.
Mike Johnston of Newmarket, Ont., put his 2011 Audi A3 into storage because it needed repairs. He then bought an Alltrack.
“I thought I’ll wait it out and when they finally arrange the package, I’ll probably go with the settlement,” he said. “I’m being offered the value of the car in 2015, so in my mind, that’s kind of a sweetheart deal.”
His wife owns a 2011 Golf that’s also affected.
Johnston said he got more information from Audi than from his dealer.
“I’m hoping for a good package, but I enjoyed driving that car. From a performance point it met my expectations, but my big thing is that they lied, and they need a smack upside the head,” he said.
Rob Smith of Oakville, Ont., is also waiting for information on his 2013 Golf Sportwagon.
“I understand it’s based on the court process, but the amount of time you have to wait for each milestone is amazing,” he said. “The news trickles out every couple of months. I wanted to change my vehicle at the end of last year and couldn’t do anything because I don’t know the resale value.
“I am part of a class action, but nothing really comes through from them,” he said. “I was hoping for resolution early this year, but it looks like it’s more toward the end of the year.”
There are two hearings on the VW settlement. On March 22, Justice Marie-Claude Lalande of the Superior Court of Quebec presided over a hearing in Montreal. Her decision is pending while the Ontario hearing remains held over.
Should both hearings result in approval, affected consumers will be able to begin filing for claims as soon as April 28.
Claims for cars with 3.0-litre TDI engines are not included in the settlement and have not yet been determined.