In 2015, German automaker Volkswagen admitted to tampering with the emission control systems on diesel-engined vehicles sold in the U.S. since 2009. The company eventually pleaded guilty to 3 felony counts, received 3 years of probation, and paid $4.3 billion in federal penalties, prompting the resignation of the company’s chief executive. As part of the settlement, Volkswagen agreed to buy back about 350,000 customer vehicles, costing the company an additional $7.4 billion.
Of the roughly 350,0000 vehicles recalled, VW has destroyed 28,000, repaired and resold 13,000, and is keeping the other 300,000 in 37 secure storage facilities around the U.S. Some interesting and unusual sites have been used for storage: a shuttered suburban Detroit football stadium, a former Minnesota paper mill and a desert site near Victorville, California.
The storage facility in Victorville, California, is one of many intended “to ensure the responsible storage of vehicles that are bought back” under the terms of the Volkswagen diesel settlement, said spokeswoman Jeannine Ginivan. She added, “These vehicles are being stored on an interim basis and routinely maintained in a manner to ensure their long-term operability and quality, so that they may be returned to commerce or exported once U.S. regulators approve appropriate emissions modifications.” VW reportedly leased 134 acres at the site. That is enough to hold 21,000 cars while the company decides their fate: whether to be fixed — or scrapped for parts.
While the car company is making progress, there are still hurdles ahead. The Guardian reports VW must buy back or fix 85 percent of the vehicles by June 2019 or face higher payments. The company said in February 2018 that it has repaired or fixed nearly 83 percent of covered vehicles and expects to soon hit the requirement. Through mid-February VW has issued 437,273 letters to cutomers offering nearly $8 billion in compensation and buybacks.
In total VW has agreed to spend more than $25 billion in the United States relating to government penalties from the federal government, environmental regulators, and states, as well as claims from owners and dealers. They have also offered to buy back about 500,000 polluting vehicles. The buybacks will continue through the end of 2019.