Volkswagen AG plans to announce a new sales initiative in the United States this week to rebuild customer trust amid its emissions scandal. The news comes on the same day that the German automaker’s engineers admitted they helped fabricate carbon-dioxide emissions data in the company's vehicles.
As part of the new move, which will be announced as early as Monday, Volkswagen plans to issue two debit cards to owners of cars affected by the emissions crisis, a U.S. car dealer who was briefed by the company said, according to the Wall Street Journal. One card will reportedly be a cash gift that Volkswagen customers will be able to use. The second debit card would be linked to purchases at a Volkswagen dealership.
The news of the sales initiative was reportedly confirmed by a Volkswagen spokesman, who did not provide any other details, but said that U.S. dealers were informed about new plans last week and the company’s U.S. unit would “publish the details about this in the coming week.”
“This is a good first step that breaks the silence,” Steve Kalafer, who co-owns Flemington Car & Truck Country, a New Jersey-based dealership that was one of the dealerships briefed last week, said, according to the Journal.
“The question is whether customers will be required to release VW of liability,” Kalafer reportedly said. “It’s a nice first step, if it’s a no-strings-attached goodwill gift from the manufacturer.”
The Volkswagen scandal came to light in September after scientists at a University of West Virginia laboratory tested several of the company's diesel vehicles and found their carbon emissions were as much as 40 times the legal limit in the U.S. The company was able to cheat on emissions tests by employing a type of software, a so-called defeat device, that indicated the vehicles' emissions as far lower than they actually were.
The software affected at least 11 million Volkswagen diesel vehicles worldwide, including about 500,000 in the U.S. Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) claimed that Volkswagen installed software designed to defeat emissions tests on 2014 to 2016 vehicles with 3.0-liter, six-cylinder diesel engines, which included Audi and Porsche models. The same week, Volkswagen executives also admitted that about 800,000 vehicles, mostly in Europe, consume fuel and emit harmful gases at higher levels than previously known.
Volkswagen is facing separate investigations in the U.S., Germany and France in addition to the company's internal probe. The carmaker has yet to announce plans to compensate U.S. consumers affected by the scandal.