See, here in the United States, Volkswagen has made a concerted effort to keep its many diesel-owning customers happy. That's included everything from a $2,000 loyalty program for people wanting to switch from a cheating diesel to a compliant gas-powered car, to a "Goodwill Package" for US and Canadian consumers. It's that last program, which will give TDI owners a total of $1,000 – half of which can only be used at a dealership – that European legislators are taking issue with.
According to an Automotive News Europe report published on Thursday, Volkswagen said the "situation in the USA and Canada is not automatically comparable with other markets in the world," and that the North American programs "cannot simply be rolled out in other markets."
But European Industry Commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska is calling bull, saying in a letter to Volkswagen CEO Matthias Mueller that "EU consumers should be treated in the same way as US customers." That sentiment was echoed by German authorities.
And to be frank, it doesn't seem like an unreasonable request. European consumers were misled about "clean" diesel technology just like their North American counterparts. But it's also not hard to see Volkswagen's hesitation to expand such a compensation program to Europe – there are only 482,000 cheating TDIs in the US, which at $1,000 per owner works out to nearly half a billion dollars in compensation (not including larger diesel engines, which are also eligible for the program).
In the EU, though, there are almost 18 times as many cheating vehicles, so implementing such a program would cost billions. That's probably oversimplified math, but it certainly explains VW's hesitation. Instead, the company has other priorities.
"We are concentrating in Europe on the repair and service process," the company said in a statement obtained by ANE.
That angle isn't sitting well with German authorities, though. According to Automotive News, a Justice Ministry official questioned the wisdom of VW's position during a press conference on Friday.
"This unequal treatment...cannot be in the interest of VW," the spokesman said. The German state of Lower Saxony is one of the Volkswagen Group's largest shareholders.