Volkswagen has agreed to pay out $15.3 billion in settlements to consumers following government allegations that the company cheated on emissions tests. Lawyers have been calling the lawsuit one of the largest auto-related class action settlements in U.S. history. Up to $10 billion is supposed to go to 475,000 VW and Audi diesel owners, with $2.7 billion for environmental litigation, and $2 billion for research on zero emissions vehicles. Volkswagen has also settled claims with 44 states for a total of $603 million. Consumers were duped into thinking they were purchasing high-performance, environmentally friendly vehicles, when the cars actually exceeded U.S. pollution laws. The company has admitted to programming the cars to turn on emissions controls during government lab tests, and turn them off during regular use. The vehicles apparently emitted more than 40 times the legal amount of nitrogen oxide, which is known to cause respiratory problems. Independent researchers discovered that the German automaker had participated in this scheme for seven years, and immediately reported them to the Environmental Protection Agency. “Using the power of the Clean Air Act, we’re getting VW’s polluted vehicles off the road and we’re reducing harmful pollution in our air- pollution that never should have been emitted in the first place,” said EPA administrator Gina McCarthy. “It should send a very clear message that when you break the laws designed to protect public health in this country, there are serious consequences.” They have not provided a solution to the problem as of yet, but its offering to buy back or repair the faulty vehicles. Models covered by the settlement include the 2009-2015 Jetta and Audi A3, the 2010-2015 Golf, and the 2012-2015 Beetle and Passat. VW is required to submit any proposed repairs to the EPA between November 2016 and October 2017, and will be forced to buy back all vehicles if it cannot come up with a plan within that time frame. They have to buy back or repair 85% of their vehicles by June 30, 2019, or face additional penalties. Consumers have the option to decline Volkwagen’s offer and sue the company on their own.
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