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The Dirt on Dieselgate

I'm a Golf kind of driver, and ours is a Golf kind of family. The format—small yet practical hatchback, affordable German engineering and refinement, engaging driving dynamics—have suited my family's interests and needs for years. My first new car was a base Mk3 Golf - the first of four I've owned. Dieselgate and all, I still think the Mk7 is the best Golf iteration yet.

So I'm probably the kind of TDI owner VW is hoping will stick this mess out, by which I mean either opt for the repair or use buyback funds to purchase another VW-Group vehicle.

The thing is, I'm not sticking this out.

My wife and I purchased our 2015 Golf TDI on August 22, 2015, intending to keep the car in the family for many years. We had conducted thorough research, budgeted carefully, and weighed our options before deciding the Golf TDI was the right fit for us. Like many, we bought into the “clean diesel” claim VW had been championing. We even gave the TDI a name: Gigi (Miyazaki fans might recognize the reference).

On September 18, the scandal broke. We learned that Gigi, which had logged a grand total of 482 miles at that point, was one of nearly 500,000 2.0 and 3.0 liter diesels in the US (and almost 11 million worldwide) that the VW Group programmed to cheat emissions tests since 2009.

I’m still angry.

I do credit VW for admitting culpability and reaching a settlement that compensates affected owners and invests in clean energy. But for my family, that’s not nearly enough to earn our trust in a company that knowingly cheated emissions standards and owners for over six years.

Why we’re choosing the buyback option

Assuming the EPA and CARB approve the fix VW has just proposed, eligible owners will have the choice of having VW repair the vehicles or buy them back. So besides feeling cheated, what else prevents us from considering the repair option? After all, owners still receive the restitution whether they opt for the buyback or the fix.

According to numerous reports since shortly after the scandal broke, it's likely any fix will adversely affect fuel economy and/or performance. More recently, a Reuters report cited by Autoblog, CNET RoadShow, and others indicates that TDIs won't meet EPA standards even after the fix. Though the settlement would allow owners to register their TDIs anyway, this news gives me pause. And what will resale value look like for these somewhat dirty diesels? I'm not willing to find out.

I've already logged on to and submitted my intent to accept the buyback option. At this point, this is not binding, but it does place us in the buyback queue (VW will handle buyback requests in the order received).

We’re not alone. A senior Kelley Blue Book analyst who was interviewed for a recent Bloomberg article expects 70 to 90 percent of owners will opt for the buyback.

The Process so far

According to, the Court should approve the settlement this Fall. The earliest we can expect a buyback check is October.

It's early, and I wish I could have already returned the car to VW, but really, the post-settlement process has proven smooth so far. The settlement website is informative, and the court documents I reviewed don't appear to hold any surprises for would-be sell-backers.

With the buyback and restitution, will we get all our money back? Until a check is in hand, I don't know for sure, but when we registered to participate in the settlement, the system generated an estimate that indicates we will. Barely.

What should other TDI owners do? The 3.0 liter TDIs aren't part of this settlement, so owners of Touaregs, Porsche Cayennes, and other such vehicles will have to wait. As for other owners of 2.0 diesels, I can't pretend to know what's best. I would encourage anyone to review the settlement website as well as the press coverage out there. If a law firm is representing you as part of the class action, I recommend reading through their FAQs and other resources. Consumer Reports has compiled its own Dieselgate resources and guides that might be helpful.

As I navigate through the buyback process, I'll keep Todd and Paul updated. In the meantime, my wife and I are looking for Gigi's replacement. The good news is we have choices; the unfortunate news is that none of the hybrids we've looked at meet our various standards. A year ago, we joked that the TDI was a magic vehicle that had it all—fuel-efficiency, versatility, and drivability. We marveled that it was almost too good to be true.

Turns out, it was.

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