Volkswagen, in an effort to appease owners of small diesel-powered cars involved in an emissions cheating scandal, is offering them $1,000 in gift cards and vouchers, the company said.
The offer announced Monday is a gesture of goodwill to 482,000 owners of cars whose 2-liter four-cylinder diesel engines have been implicated in the growing scandal, the company said. It also includes free roadside assistance for the diesel vehicles for three years.
The offer is designed to keep diesel owners happy as VW works on repairs to the cars, which are programmed to turn on pollution controls during government tests and turn them off while on the road. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says the cars emit 10 to 40 times the allowable amount of harmful nitrogen oxide while being driven.
Many owners are angry at the company for cheating because they paid extra for the cars to be environmentally sensitive without losing peppy acceleration.
"We are working tirelessly to develop an approved remedy for affected vehicles," said Michael Horn, VW's U.S. CEO, said in a statement. "In the meantime we are providing this goodwill package as a first step towards regaining our customers' trust."
VW said that its Audi luxury brand would launch a similar program on Friday.
Owners will not be required to sign anything giving up their right to sue Volkswagen or forcing them into arbitration, spokeswoman Jeannine Ginivan said Monday. "There are no strings attached," she said.
VW has admitted that four-cylinder diesels from the 2009 to 2015 model years have the software that can cheat on pollution tests. It says about 11 million cars worldwide have the software.
Last week, the EPA accused VW of cheating with different software on larger six-cylinder diesels in about 10,000 vehicles. The company also has admitted finding irregularities in carbon dioxide emissions in 800,000 other vehicles, all outside the U.S. Some of those were powered by gasoline engines.
The fix of the 2-liter diesels in the U.S. could wind up hurting performance or perhaps fuel mileage, the two main reasons why people buy the diesels. More than 200 class-action lawsuits have been filed in the U.S. against VW alleging that the scandal caused the diesel cars to drop in value.
Volkswagen already is offering $2,000 to current VW owners to trade in their cars for new vehicles, and the gift cards and vouchers would add $1,000 to that.