Lawyer says VW 'goodwill' offer should be extended to NZ owners
Kiwi vehicle owners caught in Volkswagen's global emissions scandal are ramping up pressure for compensation after their American counterparts were offered a $1500-plus sweetener.
Volkswagen's New Zealand subsidiary says it was taken by surprise yesterday by a "goodwill" offer of US$1000 ($1532) to around 500,000 American owners of vehicles with diesel engines fitted with emissions-cheating software.
General manager Tom Ruddenklau said he suspected that was because it would take longer to begin a recall of those vehicles, given tougher emissions standards in the US than here.
Although frustrated at how long it is taking to receive information from VW in Germany about the nature and timing of a recall of about 9000 vehicles here, including about 2000 Audis and 1400 Skodas, he expects that to begin early next year.
But he acknowledged "a Volkswagen customer is a Volkswagen customer" regardless of location.
"I think it's important that customers don't think we are shirking our responsibilities because we really want to help them," Mr Ruddenklau said. "It's really frustrating when there's a move like this [in the US] that sets a precedent and we simply don't have information for our market."
Wellington lawyer Edward Cox, who is organising a group legal action against Volkswagen, said the US offer "appeared consistent with what they describe as a goodwill offer" but is disappointed not to have received an indication that New Zealand owners stand to be compensated.
Although VW has acknowledged up to 11 million vehicles globally were fitted with the cheat software, Mr Cox said the true scope of the scandal had yet to be fathomed, as US regulators were now alleging it had extended to 3-litre vehicle models including the 2015 Porsche Cayenne, the 2014 VW Touareg and several 2016 Audi models. VW has denied those allegations, but subsequently admitted that at least 800,000 more vehicles - including some petrol models - had been found to have excessive carbon dioxide emissions.
Mr Cox would not disclose the number of Kiwi owners to have registered for his firm's proposed class action, but said it was "substantial".
Circle the wagens
September: United States Environmental Protection Agency issues notice of violation against Volkswagen for installing software in diesel vehicles with engines of up to 2 litres designed to suppress nitrogen oxide emissions during testing. • Volkswagen admits up to 11 million vehicles may be affected, but its NZ subsidiary initially did not believe that included any here. October: VW admits around 9000 Volkswagen, Audi and Skoda vehicles in New Zealand were fitted with the software, and are likely to be recalled next year. November: US regulators issue notices of violation covering around 10,000 diesel vehicles with 3-litre engines, including late model Porsche Cayennes, VW Touaregs and several Audi Quattro variants. • VW rejects the notices, but admits at least 800,000 more diesel and petrol vehicles globally have excessive carbon dioxide emissions.