As the months-old US$14.7-billion settlement reached between Volkswagen and nearly half a million Americans who purchased their emissions-cheating cars nears court approval, Canadian VW drivers remain entirely in the dark about their own deal.
More than 100,000 Canadians own diesel-powered VW cars purchased on the belief they were environmentally friendly, producing less emissions than comparable gasoline-powered cars. It has been over a year since the German automaker admitted to installing so-called “defeat devices” on its vehicles that allowed them to pass emissions tests despite spewing out pollutants at 40 times legally allowable limits.
It has been nearly four months since the American agreement was reached in late June, with talks spearheaded by the U.S. Justice Department and the Environmental Protection Agency. The record fine levied against the company included US$10 billion for cash payments to roughly 485,000 owners of up to US$10,000 a piece in addition to the full replacement value of the vehicle.
At the time, VW Canada told BNN Canadians could expect an update on its own settlement process “on or before” July 29. When that deadline passed with no update, the company told BNN it was now targeting its next court appearance of Oct.18 to provide settlement details.
With that second deadline now also passed, VW Canada is refusing to say whether it still hopes to have a settlement in place by the end of this year, with a spokesperson telling BNN doing so would be “speculation.”
“The parties continue to engage in productive discussions and will keep the courts updated,” Thomas Tetzlaff of VW Canada told BNN on Tuesday via email. “The details of the discussions remain subject to the court order of confidentiality while the parties work to reach a settlement.”
BNN has requested confirmation of the order from the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General as well as details on whether it was made at the request of VW or the lawyers representing drivers. There are 19 different law firms involved in the potential class action lawsuit.
Canadians have grown increasingly frustrated with the ongoing delay. Briand Gaudet, one of the nearly 5,300 members of the Canadian VW TDI Owners Facebook group, created a spinoff group called “Canadian VW TDI Owners Venting Group” on Tuesday.
Tetzlaff told BNN after the U.S. settlement that the company’s “hope is to provide remedies to Canadians on pace with U.S. customers,” yet the resolution process appears to be vastly different in this country. American federal government departments were directly involved in discussions with the carmaker that led to the agreement, with the Justice Department in particular admonishing VW for having “duped” Americans into becoming “unwitting accomplices in an unprecedented assault on our nation’s environment.”
Environment and Climate Change Canada has been conducting a criminal probe of VW since last September. In August, the federal government department said it was not able to provide any details “as this could jeopardize the integrity of the investigation.”
As for the resolution of civil claims brought against VW by the United States, Ottawa told BNN on Aug. 16 that “there is no such mechanism available… under Canadian law.”
Meanwhile, another federal government department – Natural Resources Canada – is continuing to actively endorse the emissions-cheating VW cars as environmentally friendly.