Volkswagen has reached a record $14.7 billion settlement with both federal officials and the owners of 475,000 vehicles in a class-action lawsuit concerning emissions-cheating software.
U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer approved the agreement on 25 October 2016. However, the automaker still faces a criminal investigation for misleading officials regarding software installed in diesel-powered cars between 2009 and 2015.
The software allowed 2.0-liter diesel-fueled cars — specifically Audi A3s, as well as Beetle, Golf, Jetta and Passats — from the years in question to cheat emissions tests by minimizing their emission levels during testing. Volkswagen admitted to using the "cheat devices" in September 2015.
The settlement covers agreements between Volkswagen and the Justice Department, the California state air resources board and attorney's general office, and the Federal Trade Commission, as well as car owners.
California Attorney General Kamala Harris (D) said in a statement that:
This agreement holds the company accountable for violating California and federal environmental protection laws and requires major investments in our environment and zero emission technology, including over a billion dollars for California alone.
Under the terms of the settlement, owners of autos with the installed software can have their cars bought back by Volkswagen for anywhere between $12,500 and $44,000. They are also allowed to end their leases without penalty or have their cars modified to conform to emissions standards, once the company comes up with alterations that are approved by both the Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board.
Volkswagen has created a web site allowing owners or lessees of the vehicle models covered by the settlement to gauge their eligibility. The company is also adding employees at each of their 652 dealerships in the U.S. to help process buybacks.