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Volkswagen Agrees To Record $14.7B Settlement Over Emissions Cheating (cnn.com) 143

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNNMoney: Volkswagen's deliberate cheating on emissions tests will cost it a record $14.7 billion. And that's just the start of its problems. The settlement is only a preliminary step in the case; the automaker still faces possible criminal charges, as well as civil penalties for Clean Air Act violations. The Department of Justice is investigating possible criminal charges against both the company and individuals, said Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates. Up to $10 billion of the funds will be paid out to owners of the 487,000 affected diesel cars in the U.S., sold under the VW or luxury Audi brands. How much an owner gets will depend on whether an owner chooses to fix their car or just have VW buy it back -- they have until May 2018 to decide. Repurchasing the cars will cost VW between $12,500 to $44,000 per car. The $14.7 billion settlement estimate assumes that all the cars are repurchased. Owners who elect to get their vehicles fixed will also get a cash payment of between $5,100 and $10,000 to compensate them for the lost value of the cars, as well as for Volkswagen's deceptive promise of "clean diesel." Most of the buyers paid extra for a car with a diesel engine. In addition to the customer payments, Volkswagen will pay $2.7 billion for environmental cleanup and $2 billion to promote zero-emission vehicles. The clean up money will be used by individual states to cut other diesel emissions by replacing older, government-owned trucks, buses and other diesel engines now in use. Volkswagen is betting big on electric vehicles after this emissions scandal. It plans to deliver 30 electric plug-in models by 2025.
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Volkswagen Agrees To Record $14.7B Settlement Over Emissions Cheating

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  • by FlyHelicopters ( 1540845 ) on Tuesday June 28, 2016 @09:31PM (#52410283)

    Without people being held to count for this, then it is meaningless...

    The current people who agreed to this are giving away shareholders money, not their money. What does it matter to the CEO who still gets paid, cheat and get rewarded, lied and still get something...

    Large companies will not stop doing these things just because of a fine...

    • by bloodhawk ( 813939 ) on Tuesday June 28, 2016 @09:40PM (#52410307)
      The CEO didn't get squat, he resigned over this scandal last year so he definitely isn't still being paid and by all reports he didn't actually know anything about this but took responsibility for it anyway by resigning. Supposedly he also ensured the investigation into it was kicked off properly before he resigned. Not everything that happens in a company is because the CEO is an evil bastard.
      • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

        The point is, unless you start handing out severe rehabilatory custodial sentences, plus the full confiscation of double the profits at an individual level (bonuses et al) and follow up the route of responsibility from bottom to top, we will never ever fucking know if the CEO is an evil bastard or not! Whether the directors are evil bastards or not and as is often the case, what evil bastard politicians and government regulators were involved. Stop sticking to share holders who had no control over those out

      • by Mal-2 ( 675116 )

        Of course! Martin Winterkorn, CEO in 2015 would have had no idea what was going on in Engineering. Ignore that Martin Winterkorn guy in Engineering at the time this was taking place, couldn't possibly be the same guy...

    • Who said the CEO knew? I'd hold their engineering and software developers suspect and start investigating there. This was a significant undertaking with a lot of telemetry to be analyzed for the car to recognize it was being evaluated.

    • by Orgasmatron ( 8103 ) on Tuesday June 28, 2016 @11:36PM (#52410715)

      This is meaningless no matter what. VAG is getting raked over the coals for selling cars that people wanted. There was not even a hint that these cars disappointed even a single owner. And if flashing the firmware was easy, I'm guessing that pretty much every single owner would have installed this code on their own.

      This is slashdot, right? Are we still in favor of people overclocking their hardware? How about purchasing pre-overclocked gear? A few days ago, weren't we opposed to WiFi routers locking their firmware to ensure compliance with FCC rules? How are we on the opposite side today?

      The amazing thing about this story is that no one has yet found the settlement agreement sloshing millions of dollars into the coffers of communist agitator groups. Or maybe we'll find out later that VAG made a "voluntary" donation to a bunch of them in exchange for the settlement not being even higher.

      • by yoshi_mon ( 172895 ) on Wednesday June 29, 2016 @12:52AM (#52410993)

        Cars are not routers. Trucks are not CPUs. I can't run over someone with my overclocked desktop. I can't go at such an unsafe speed that I lose control and crash into others with my modified router.

        Your analogy is wrong. We treat vehicles very differently because of what they can do. "We" the Slashdot crowd that understand that are not opposed to modifying things that can't go at speeds that can kill someone if operated wrongly. "We" instead understand that vehicles are something that need to be well regulated due to their nature.

        • by ichthus ( 72442 ) on Wednesday June 29, 2016 @01:41AM (#52411121) Homepage

          I can't run over someone with my overclocked desktop. I can't go at such an unsafe speed that I lose control and crash into others with my modified router. Your analogy is wrong. We treat vehicles very differently because of what they can do. "We" the Slashdot crowd that understand that are not opposed to modifying things that can't go at speeds that can kill someone if operated wrongly.

          Have you even been following the story? You do know that this has little to do with the cars being able to run at *cough* dangerous speeds, right? Just checking.

          • >Have you even been following the story? You do know that this has little to do with the cars being able to run at *cough* dangerous speeds, right? Just checking.

            Because poisoning people is so much better right ? That's what you are missing. Even if you are so anti-science that you entirely ignore the CO2 factor - what these engines mostly put out was extremely toxic gasses (like sulphur-dioxide) which are heavily regulated with damn good reason - because breathing that shit kills people.
            It's almost guar

            • It's almost guaranteed that quite a lot of people are dead because of this fraud.

              The last estimate I saw suggested some 40 people may have died because of the additional NOx pollution, although pollution doesn't work that way, and auto pollution double-extra doesn't work that way. Because the vehicles produced more NOx, they also consumed less fuel and they produced less soot, HC, and CO2. They went ahead and calculated the additional deaths from NOx, but they didn't subtract the reduced deaths from soot and HC, nor from the reduced impact on climate change.

              • The last estimate I saw suggested some 40 people may have died because of the additional NOx pollution, although pollution doesn't work that way

                When you are talking about large populations it actually does work that way. They can't tell you which 40 they are and there are some meaningful error bars around that number. But it's not impossibly hard to show how a given source of pollution impacts the health of a population. Doing it right is just a lot of work. You compare the heath outcomes to a control group and control for variables. Typically when they cite these studies they are talking about models rather than retrospective data analysis wh

                • You might (stress might) be right about the fact that the overall mortality rate might not change much but that doesn't mean a specific cause can be ignored.

                  The question is how many people died because VW cheated. If the net result is 0, what more is there to say? In fact we don't know, because there has been no good-faith attempt (by either side) to make such a determination. VW obviously has no motivation to participate in such an effort, so it's disappointing that no one else seems to be interested either.

                • by khallow ( 566160 )

                  When you are talking about large populations it actually does work that way. Oh look, another zero evidence opinion on the internet. I was so worried that we'd run out of them.

            • They put out a minor and insignificant amount of nitrous oxide, which we control to an obsessive degree. Our entire infrastructure would have to get about 20 times as much atmospheric NOx to cause a health concern; and NOx breaks down harmlessly in atmosphere, with a shorter half life at higher concentrations (which is really interesting), so much so that reaching those levels is going to take 80-100 times the emissions.

              The way you're talking, it's like someone ate cabbage last week and you've opened a

              • Except of course it's half a million in the US alone - and that's the LOWEST number in the world.

                • Your large numbers are cute, and don't address the impact of half a million cars on atmospheric concentrations of NOx.

                  My point was that the *entire* fleet of vehicles in the world pumping out elevated levels of NOx would *still* have difficulty nudging us toward danger levels. When I said "Our entire infrastructure," that included coal power plants, oil power plants, gigantic factories, air and sea travel, oil refineries... our entire infrastructure.

        • "We" the Slashdot crowd that understand that are not opposed to modifying things that can't go at speeds that can kill someone if operated wrongly. "We" instead understand that vehicles are something that need to be well regulated due to their nature.

          Oh. If only that were true. Have you read the comments on here before?
      • by Uberbah ( 647458 )

        This is meaningless no matter what. VAG is getting raked over the coals for selling cars that people wanted.

        Wait, what? If you were caught cheating on a test in high school, would your parents have been impressed by saying, "hey, these were the grades you wanted?" You might wanna back up and start over here, because so far you've got a word salad.

      • VAG is getting raked over the coals for selling cars that people wanted.

        No they are getting raked over the coals for selling cars that they claimed were what people wanted when in fact they fraudulently were not.

        There was not even a hint that these cars disappointed even a single owner.

        Bull droppings. 20 seconds on Google would clearly establish that there are a lot of owners that are very disappointed in these cars now that they know they are not what they were claimed to be.

        And if flashing the firmware was easy, I'm guessing that pretty much every single owner would have installed this code on their own.

        Flashing firmware on a car IS easy if you have the right equipment. That doesn't mean people want to do it on their own. First, doing so can void the car's warranty. Second,

    • by Monoman ( 8745 )

      Exactly. Until people are held accountable for their actions this is going to continue to happen.

    • It's worth considering though - that the odds right now is that Volkswagen will not exist much longer. This is the first penalty - and almost 15 Billion it's a huge one, for perspective, when the issue first leaked VW set aside 17 Billion USD for handling the legal fallout. They sure did not expect to spend almost all of that on the very first case.
      Just in the US there are still two more cases to come (one of them criminal) - and the US is the least of their problems here. Only about half a million cars wer

      • It's worth considering though - that the odds right now is that Volkswagen will not exist much longer.

        Unless the German government decides to let VW fail it will not go anywhere. Yes there will be substantial financial fallout but I doubt a VW liquidation is likely. The government of Lower Saxony owns 20.2% and German law [wikipedia.org] requires an 80% shareholder agreement on any major decisions. As large shareholders they are unlikely to let VW cease to exist.

        This is the first penalty - and almost 15 Billion it's a huge one

        VW has around $48 Billion in cash an equivalents. Furthermore with the government as a shareholder it potentially can tap into lines of credit. It's going to

        • Well that only supports my conclusion: that VW is likely to end up a government owned company much like what happened with GM rather than actually going bankrupt.

    • Jail is an ineffective use of punishment or corrective action. It should really be limited towards people who cannot be part of civilization by being too dangerious. Also for many evil corporate scandals it isn't the action of one rougue person or even a conspiracy. Usually it is due to a too competitive culture where each employee feels the need to stretch the truth a little bit or hack the performance measure because otherwise it may look bad on you. So every stretch in the gray area adds up to crossin

    • by naris ( 830549 )

      All of the engineering for VW happens in Germany and the US Justice Department has no jurisdiction there which will complicate them putting someone in jail.

      Also, apparently it must be OK if cars kill people as no one has demanded that someone from GM, Ford, Takata or other companies that cause fatalities be put in jail. But if you screw up emissions and the executive management is clueless (which most executive management is about the details of most companies) - send them straight to jail!

      Yes, CEOs and oth

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Put 70k miles of 40+ MPG driving in a large sedan.

    And now I get back basically 2/3 of the price I paid for the car brand new.

    This is fantastic. Greatest car purchase decision I made.

  • by penguinoid ( 724646 ) on Tuesday June 28, 2016 @09:41PM (#52410315) Homepage Journal

    Most megacorps only get a slap on the wrist no matter how nasty a thing they do. Maybe that's only a privilege for local megacorps?

    • by amiga3D ( 567632 )

      This was several orders of magnitude worse than the usual dodge. They're going to get bent over and reamed good.

  • There has been lots of discussion over at tdiclub.com. Some people are happy with the amount offered, many others are not. It depends a bit on how good a deal you got on the car originally, how much you spent on aftermarket stuff to modify the car, how many miles you drive.

  • by Chewbacon ( 797801 ) on Tuesday June 28, 2016 @09:47PM (#52410347)

    Someone better check under the hood to make sure they don't have a internal combustion engine hidden somewhere.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      They may well have combustion engines. VW do a couple of all-electric models, but I imagine a lot of their coming cars will by hybrids. Maybe something like a "REX" (Range EXtended) EV, where you have a modest size battery that can do say 70km, and a small petrol engine to recharge it. For most journeys you can run entirely on electric, but for longer ones you can fuel up and not have to rely on electric charging infrastructure.

      Personally I much prefer full electric cars with no dino juice engine. Much simp

      • I prefer an all electric car that litters the road with flowers, (or alternately the shredded body parts of capitalists, depending on my mood) let's make them produce that. Oh, and instead of having to press an accelerator pedal it massages my feet while I drive it.

        Surely we can force VW into producing such a vehicle.

  • by schwit1 ( 797399 ) on Tuesday June 28, 2016 @10:20PM (#52410477)
    What kind of testing are they doing that they failed to catch this? What other more dangerous industries are they testing as incompetently?
    • by amiga3D ( 567632 )

      The software was set up to detect if it was a real world or test environment. Given a test environment it would go into shitty running EPA mode. In real world it went into great motoring fun mode. Real slick until you get caught. They should have realized that sooner or later someone would catch on. You can't run any scam forever.

      • by rhazz ( 2853871 )

        You can't run any scam forever.

        +1 that. Maybe they figured the fallout would be worth the profits if they could keep it up long enough (and maybe it was). Also based on history I find it hard to believe anyone will actually do jail time for this.

    • The kind that can be defeated with criminal intent. ... Just like every other industry and every other test ever.

      If you can define a test we can figure out a way around it. The key part here is that the test itself was still perfectly sound for that it attempted to do, get a baseline measurement of different vehicle emissions under carefully controlled environments.

      Any way to engineer a test around it will result in engineers engineering around the newly engineered test. If that doesn't work you can just go

      • People are forgetting the early fall-out of the VW scandal was every other car manufacturer *also* appearing to perform a lot worse on emissions in the real-world than in testing conditions. VW pulled off theirs better than the rest of 'em.

        • Hardly. The other manufacturers performed consistently when the test conditions were altered, which doesn't present as much as a problem of bypassing, but of poor testing conditions. Consider the olympic swimming suits. When everyone is on a level playing field within the rules it's not cheating. You can modify the rules slightly to get the conditions you want, but it's not in the same league as someone doing performance enhancing drugs.

  • by jader3rd ( 2222716 )
    This is talked about as the biggest settlement ever, and it certainly is bad what Volkswagen did, but nobody died because of this. I think there are some messed up priorities in the system.
    • by swm ( 171547 ) <swmcd@world.std.com> on Tuesday June 28, 2016 @11:18PM (#52410661) Homepage

      Actually, people did die.
      Marginal increases in air pollution cause marginal increases in deaths, mainly due to assorted respiratory ailments.
      Just because we don't know who they are doesn't make the victims any less dead.

      • by ichthus ( 72442 )

        Marginal increases in air pollution cause marginal increases in deaths, mainly due to assorted respiratory ailments.

        Really? How many more? Quantify it.

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

          TL;DR it's hard to put an exact figure on but it's high, in the millions. We shouldn't let being able to put an exact figure on a problem prevent us from dealing with it.

          • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Wednesday June 29, 2016 @08:04AM (#52412055) Homepage Journal

            TL;DR it's hard to put an exact figure on but it's high, in the millions.

            No, FUD-spreading liar, it is in the thousands at worst [theguardian.com]. Further, it cannot be even that number, because the study was actually shit.

            The study, published in the journal Environmental Research Letters on Thursday, concluded that most of the 59 premature deaths were caused by particulate pollution (87%) with the rest caused by ozone exposure (13%). Most of the deaths were estimated to have occurred on the east and west coasts of the US.

            The number of deaths was reached by looking at the amount of extra pollution emitted between 2008 and 2015 by the VW cars fitted with the defeat devices.

            But that is garbage, because the software also caused the vehicles to use less fuel, which means while they produced more NOx, they actually produced less PM2.5 particulates, which are the kind that cause cancer. These particulates are increased when modern diesel emissions systems are used. Gasoline cars put out just as much black carbon as diesels [slashdot.org], and nearly all of it is PM2.5, so if those cars had not been purchased and gasoline cars had been purchased instead, a lot more harmful particulates would have been released.

            At most, thousands more people died from NOx-related effects, but no one is even trying to tell us how many less people died from PM2.5 soot causing cancer, how much less unburned HC was released due to so much less HC being injected (a 20-25% fuel savings!) and from people buying diesels when they could be buying the competition — non-plug-in hybrids. Such vehicles get no better mileage than diesels, they emit more PM2.5 than diesels, and they have two whole power systems which raises the production energy cost. Battery electrolytes are still not recycled, they are incinerated or landfilled which costs more energy, so a diesel is still superior to a non-plug-in-hybrid.

            TL;DR: You're full of shit.

            • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

              No, FUD-spreading liar, it is in the thousands at worst.

              You are linking to a study about deaths attributed to VW. I was talking about the number of people who died or had significant health issues due to air pollution from all sources.

              I would accuse you of setting up a straw man argument, but I think you were just triggered and flew off the handle with range, without actually realising your mistake.

              Seriously drinkypoo, you seem really quick to anger these days.

              • But the question was "how many more", in response to "marginal increases in air pollution cause marginal increases in deaths", in the context of an increase in air pollution from VW TDi vehicles. Your response didn't state a new context, so it would only include those new deaths from VW TDi emission increases over the baseline emission control standards.

                • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

                  I was responding to:

                  Marginal increases in air pollution cause marginal increases in deaths, mainly due to assorted respiratory ailments.

                  Really? How many more? Quantify it.

                  • Yes, and your response was about air pollution from all sources, while the question was about marginal increases in air pollution, in the context of increases in air pollution from VW TDi emissions. Even putting context aside, the question asked about *increases*, while you made a statement about *all*.

    • Tell me about it. Only a handful of people died in the Gulf of Mexico, why does BP pay more in fines than an airline company when a plane kills an order of magnitude more people?

      For those who can't tell I'm being sarcastic here. The point is the fine is not directly related to deaths, but rather to a range of things including harm beyond people, harm to livelyhoods, economic harm (lost value in cars as the summary says), and willful / criminal intent vs negligence vs freak accidents.

      • You can't undo economic harm by moving money around. Monetary damages are only good for establishing some approximation of fairness.

  • In addition to the customer payments, Volkswagen will pay $2.7 billion for environmental cleanup and $2 billion to promote zero-emission vehicles.

    Oh, so -now- the US -is- interested in the environment. When its about being at the receiving end, caring for the environment is just dandy, ain't it?

  • The clean up money will be used by individual states to cut other diesel emissions by replacing older, government-owned trucks, buses and other diesel engines now in use.

    So the older, government-owned trucks, buses and other diesel engines now in use will be replaced by newer VW vehicles? Good for sales, at least!

  • Given that the cars are not fit for purpose, customers should have the right to return them for a full refund however old they are.

    Easy.

  • Every car producer lies... Why it's only hitting VW?

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