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Volkswagen Reaches Deal With U.S. On Cars With Emissions Software


Volkswagen and U.S. regulators went to court today and presented the broad outlines of an agreement to address the company's omissions cheating. Under the plant, owners of most of the VW vehicles involved will have a choice to either sell back their car to Volkswagen or have it modified to meet emission standards. NPR's John Ydstie joins us to talk about it.

And, John, this agreement first was submitted in U.S. District Court in San Francisco. Why there?

JOHN YDSTIE, BYLINE: Right. Well, it's because California has the largest concentration of these cars, and the 500 class-action suits brought in the United States over this issue have been consolidated under Judge Charles Breyer in U.S. District Court in California. And that's why the parties who had made this agreement came before him today.

SIEGEL: Well, are VW owners likely to be pleased with this agreement?

YDSTIE: Well, I think they'll be happy to know that they have a choice about whether to keep their car or sell it back. They'll be happy to know that they'll get an additional substantial compensation for their trouble, but they may be unhappy that they don't have enough details yet to make a decision about that. They don't know what VW will pay for their cars, and they don't know much more about the potential fix and how it might affect the performance of their cars.

SIEGEL: Well, why no details like that?

YDSTIE: Well, that's because many of the details haven't yet been finalized. And Judge Breyer said he didn't want the negotiations going public, which could have been an emotional roller coaster for many of these car owners. Judge Breyer has told the parties to meet a deadline of June 21 when all the details should be finalized and the agreement can be made public.

SIEGEL: Now, there has been talk about VW owners getting additional compensation, even in addition to having the cars fixed. Anything on that in this agreement?

YDSTIE: Again, no specific numbers, but Judge Breyer did say whether you take the fix or sell your car back, you will get substantial additional compensation.

SIEGEL: And what about damage to the environment? Does this deal say anything about what Volkswagen could pay for that?

YDSTIE: No specifics here either, Robert. It's estimated VW could be liable for up to $18 billion in fines, though very few people believe they'll pay that much. However in summarizing the framework, Judge Breyer said Volkswagen would pay significant amounts to a fund for remediating the environmental damage caused by these cars. He also said VW has agreed to spend a good deal of money on green technologies.

SIEGEL: Now, as we said at the outset, this agreement in principle covered most of the cars involved. Which cars?

YDSTIE: This deal covers nearly 500,000 vehicles with 2-liter engines. Those are Volkswagen Golfs and Jettas and Audi A3s. There's no agreement yet on about 100,000 larger VW products with 3-liter diesel engines, including VW Audi and Porsche SUVs.

SIEGEL: Thank you, John.

YDSTIE: You're welcome, Robert.

SIEGEL: That's NPR's John Ydstie. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

John Ydstie
John Ydstie has covered the economy, Wall Street, and the Federal Reserve at NPR for nearly three decades. Over the years, NPR has also employed Ydstie's reporting skills to cover major stories like the aftermath of Sept. 11, Hurricane Katrina, the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. He was a lead reporter in NPR's coverage of the global financial crisis and the Great Recession, as well as the network's coverage of President Trump's economic policies. Ydstie has also been a guest host on the NPR news programs Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition. Ydstie stepped back from full-time reporting in late 2018, but plans to continue to contribute to NPR through part-time assignments and work on special projects.