Angry Volkswagen owners wanting to make some extra cash are taking advantage of the automaker's hard times.
There are always those who use the hard times of others to their advantage. Unfortunately for Volkswagen, many of these people happen to be owners of diesel vehicles affected by the same cheat software that has brought the auto giant to a state of financial hardship. One of the reasons for the hardship is that the automaker has been ordered to pay a hefty fine to regulators as well as buy back the affected diesels at pre-Dieselgate prices provided the cars are in operable condition.
The only problem with the definition of "operable" is that it simply means the car must be able to travel under its own power. That fairly loose interpretation means that the car can't be junked, a rebuild, or salvaged. On paper it seems like VW covered everything, but it leaves a swath of grey area that, as members of of sites like Reddit and members of the TDI Club forum have noticed, allows drivers to get a small bit of revenge on the automaker. Some owners have been stripping their cars of parts before returning the rolling chassis for a full refund. Once parts like the seats, interior trim, fenders, and more are removed, the owners can sell them for cash, which they then heap onto the money that Volkswagen gave them.
We reached out to Volkswagen about the phenomenon and were told that the company had no idea about the practice and had learned about it like everyone else. As such, it doesn't have data on how many of its returned TDIs have been stripped or if this practice is widespread. For now, the company doesn't know what to do to about the situation. Should this become a trend it would hamper the automaker's efforts to both fix and resell its cars or scrap them. If it takes the fix and resell route it will need to replace the missing parts using its own coin. If it wants to scrap the cars then it's lost the ability to sell the usable components as spare parts to make some money back.
Ethical or not, as far as we know these TDI owners are adhering to the rules outlined by the EPA's Consent Decree regarding the buybacks. It's also important to consider that some owners may have spent their own money on modifications. Why lose that cash now? In either case, the only way Volkswagen can get people to stop mining parts from vehicles it's paying full price for is to have the policies surrounding the buybacks changed. Stripped Volkswagen image from Reddit user Tacoboutnachos.