Jalopnik reader and Cincinnati car salesman Joe Mayer is the owner of a 2010 Volkswagen Golf TDI husk that he stripped of nearly every part that he could. He then planned drive it to a local dealer where he had an appointment set to turn it in for a buyback. Allegedly, other TDI owners have done the same thing successfully, although the extent of their plundering is unclear. Before he could complete the buyback, Volkswagen called and postponed the appointment with the excuse that stripping the car was not in the "spirit of the buyback." Presumably, the story that ran on Jalopnik alerted Volkswagen to his plan.
This is where things get sticky. According to the settlement, "to be eligible, a vehicle must be operable, meaning that it can be driven on its own engine power." Obviously, that could be interpreted in many ways. The "spirit of the article" is a vague phrase as well. In Mayer's defense, he supposedly talked to Volkswagen reps on the phone to clarify if a car was eligible if it was stripped. According to him, the reps essentially said "I'm not telling you you're allowed to, but the only thing required is that it's drivable and operable." Mayer saw that as the go ahead.
We reached out to Volkswagen to see what it plans to do with the cars it ends up buying back. Our contact said, "The situation will depend on whether emissions modifications are approved by the EPA and CARB. We expect to have more details as the process moves forward with the modification approval process."
Part of the agreement Volkswagen came to with the government would allow the automaker to retrofit any vehicle obtained in the buyback with legal emissions equipment, if such equipment is deemed OK. It then would be allowed to resell the car as long as it's clear to the buyer what they were getting. Any car that isn't retrofitted would be made inoperable and potentially parted out. That means a stripped car is worth less to Volkswagen than one that is still intact. Thus, Volkswagen does have a vested interest in buying back whole and complete vehicles.
Mayer could have simply accepted the buyback, which amounts the car's value in September 2015. He bought the car used in September 2015, meaning he could have probably gotten back what he paid for it. Instead he tried to game the system and could potentially be left with nothing – and perhaps creating further hassles for other owners who would otherwise have had no issues. This whole Volkswagen dieselgate situation is rough, and this doesn't help things at all.