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December, 10, 2016

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Several VW owners slam emissions deal

SAN FRANCISCO -- Several angry Volkswagen owners told a federal judge on Tuesday that a US$10 billion settlement does not adequately compensate them for the automaker's emissions cheating scandal, part of a vocal minority who objected to the deal as hundreds of thousands of others signed up for payments.

U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer will determine whether the settlement is fair to consumers and should receive final approval. He said he was "strongly inclined" to approve it but would make a final decision by Oct. 25, giving him time to consider the owners' objections and whether he should recommend any changes.

"We got played the fool," Mark Dietrich, an Audi owner from San Francisco, told the judge earlier at a hearing in San Francisco. "This settlement does not go far enough."

Dietrich demanded the full purchase price of his car as well as part of his registration fee.

The settlement calls for the German automaker to spend up to US$10 billion to buy back or repair about 475,000 Volkswagens and Audi vehicles with 2-liter diesel engines and pay their owners an additional US$5,100 to US$10,000 each. Any repair options have yet to be finalized.

It also includes US$4.7 billion for unspecified environmental mitigation to make up for the excess pollution and to promote zero-emissions vehicles. The combined US$14.7 billion deal would be the largest auto-scandal settlement in U.S. history.

Attorneys who helped negotiate it said it was fair and had received support from the vast majority of eligible car owners. Volkswagen's lawyer said Tuesday that it was a good deal for buyers and would help the company regain people's trust.

But Blair Stewart, a Volkswagen owner from Palo Alto, said the company engaged in a "program of deception" that should not go unpunished. More than a dozen people spoke against the settlement at the hearing, among them people who sold their vehicles and objected that the new owner would get a windfall in the deal.

The scandal erupted in September 2015 when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Volkswagen had fitted many of its cars with software to fool emissions tests, putting dirty vehicles on the road. Car owners and the U.S. Department of Justice sued.

The software recognized when the cars were being tested on a treadmill and turned on pollution controls. The controls were turned off when the cars returned to the road. The EPA alleged the scheme let the cars spew more than 40 times the allowable limit of nitrogen oxide, which can cause respiratory problems in people.

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