News that Volkswagen has offered $1,000 in credit to 482,000 owners of its scandal-hit diesel cars in the US and Canada has not gone down well in the UK. While owners of cars whose 2-litere four-cyclinder diesel engines implicated in the emissions scandal will get a $500 Visa gift card and a $500 dealership card as well as free 24-hour roadside assistance for three years, customers in the UK will get nothing.
A VW company spokesman explained that the decision not to extend the offer made to its North American customers to those in Europe was a reflection of the "very different markets." He said the affected vehicles are subject to much more stringent emissions legislation in the US and Canada compared to other countries.
As a consequence, customers in these countries are likely to have to wait longer for remedies to be approved by the authorities than in Europe, he added. Across Europe, a total of 8.5 million cars fitted with the emissions beating software are due to be recalled with effect from next year.
The Daily Mail noted that the decision to give vouchers to only North American car owners came days after British Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin suggested that the car maker should consider compensating UK motorists who lose money due to the scandal when they put their cars up for sale.
The UK is the second worst-hit country in Europe, outside Germany. A total of 583,000 VW cars, 393,000 Audis, 132,000 Skodas and 77,000 Seat in the UK are affected by the emissions rigging software scandal.
In a statement, Michael Horn, VW's US chief executive officer said: "We are working tirelessly to develop an approved remedy for affected vehicles. In the meantime, we are providing this goodwill package as a first step towards regaining our customers' trust."
The company said its Audi luxury brand will be offering a similar deal for its own customers. The offer does not preclude owners from seeking other forms of compensation from the carmaker. Company spokeswoman Jeannine Ginivan said car owners will not be required to sign any documents to give up their right to sue the company or force them into arbitration. "There are no strings attached," she said.
VW is already offering $2,000 to current VW owners to trade in their cars for new vehicles. Under the headline We're Working to Make Things Right, VW launched on Monday (9 November) a webpage where VW owners can enter their vehicle registration numbers and see if they qualify for the $1,000 credit.
The carmaker said on Monday that it is in continued discussions with both US and California regulators on potential remedies which include the possibility of buying back some of the affected cars. The offer by VW however does not seem to have appeased the authorities. Late Monday, the attorneys general from 47 states and the District of Columbia issued a statement saying that the automaker's offer to consumers "in no way diminishes the seriousness of the deceptive practices and environmental harms" being investigated by the states.
VW in series of talks with union leaders
Separately, VW Chief Executive Matthias Mueller issued a joint statement with the top labour representative at the company, saying that the union will be involved in a series of talks in the coming 10 days in decisions about the company's future. "In the current difficult situation, we must take joint decisions which pay heed to the profitability as well as employment," the statement said.
VW's supervisory board is due to approve spending plans on plants, equipment and technology in the coming years at a meeting on 20 November. Separately, VW said its head of corporate communications Andreas Lampersbach has left the company on Monday.