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Advisory: VW Consent Decree Announced; Buy-Back Program For Select VW, Audi Vehicles To Start In Fall

Green Car Guide

The Automobile Club of Southern California is alerting motorists that a legal settlement has been reached with Volkswagen to remove polluting vehicles from the road with the manufacturer offering a buy-back and lease termination program.  As part of the settlement and consent decree, VW will fund more than $1 billion locally over several years to advance California projects to reduce pollution and also to advance the Golden State’s nation-leading zero-emissions vehicle (ZEV) programs.


The settlement, once approved, would affect nearly 500,000 vehicle owners nationwide and the automaker will spend up to $15 billion to create a mitigation trust fund, to develop and promote electric-vehicle technology, and to compensate consumers.  The consumer piece is $10 billion and vehicle owners will have the option to choose either the buyback or a modification to their vehicle, if a modification is approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the California Air Resources Board (CARB).  Cash payments up to $10,000 also will be available for certain vehicles under the announced nationwide agreement.  


VW is expected to begin buying back eligible vehicles in October, according to news reports.  Auto Club members who find themselves in the market for a vehicle and are considering a green car may visit The Auto Club Car Buying Service also can help with the vehicle purchasing process:


CARB and the California Attorney General announced this week that under a consent decree VW will compensate consumers who own or lease certain VW and Audi models that contain an emission control system “defeat device.”  CARB discovered that VW hid software in certain diesel vehicles to operate in a way to pass California and federal emissions certification tests but bypass the emission control system out on the road, causing the vehicles to emit up to 40 times the legally allowed nitrogen oxide level.   


California Air Quality Impacted Communities


Since California’s air quality is worse than elsewhere in the nation, VW’s “defeat device” was considered extremely harmful and impacted 35 million people living in certain disadvantaged communities, according to a CARB statement.       


California officials announced the consent decree, which the carmaker must legally follow, because the purposeful violation of state and national environmental laws was discovered here.  The consent decree covers all 2.0-liter diesel vehicles manufactured by Volkswagen and Audi between 2009 and 2015. These include:


  • VW Jetta SportWagen (MY 2009 - 2014)
  • Audi A3 (MY 2010 - 2013, 2015)
  • VW Beetle (MY 2013 - 2015)
  • VW Beetle Convertible (MY 2013 -  2015)
  • VW Golf (MY 2010 - 2015)
  • VW Jetta (MY 2009 - 2015)
  • VW Passat (MY 2012 - 2015)
  • VW Golf SportWagen (MY 2015)


The consent decree does not cover 3.0-liter diesel vehicles manufactured by Volkswagen, Audi, and Porsche that the California and Federal governments allege are also equipped with defeat devices. These vehicles will be addressed later. It also does not address any potential criminal liability and it does not resolve pending claims for civil penalties. 


For more information on the details of this agreement for owners, please visit:


The proposed consent decree is subject to a 30-day public comment period under provisions of the federal Clean Air Act.


California’s 10-Year ZEV Infrastructure and Access Fund:

The consent decree also requires VW to invest $800 million in ZEV infrastructure and access over a 10-year period here in California. VW will be installing zero-emission vehicle fueling infrastructure (for electric and hydrogen-powered cars), funding consumer awareness campaigns to increase the zero-emission vehicle market, and investing in projects such as car-sharing programs that will increase access to zero-emission vehicles for all consumers in California. These brand-neutral projects will support the next generation of zero-emission vehicles that will be sold in California, helping to grow the state’s burgeoning ZEV program, and will help lay the zero-emissions foundation for achieving the state’s air quality and climate goals.


Under the terms of the settlement, VW will submit ZEV investment plans every 30 months, covering $200 million in investments in each plan, until all funding is spent.  CARB will provide comments and approve each plan after those comments are addressed. Under the broader national settlement, VW will be investing an additional $1.2 billion in other states for similar projects that support the transition to zero-emission vehicles. 


The proposed consent decree is available here:


The California Attorney General’s news release is available here:


An FAQ on California’s portion of the settlement is available here:



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The Automobile Club of Southern California is a member club affiliated with the American Automobile Association (AAA) national federation and serves members in the following California counties: Inyo, Imperial, Kern, Los Angeles, Mono, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare, and Ventura.