Volkswagen is preparing to offer a generous compensation package to the nearly 600,000 US owners of diesel vehicles whose emissions are over the legal limit.
The head of the company’s claims fund, Kenneth Feinberg, told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, that the company is still decided on cash, car buy-backs, repairs, or replacement cars.
Feinberg is no stranger to dealing with such compensation programs, he led claims after the September 11, 2001 attacks, and was responsible for compensation programs following BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill and General Motors’ ignition switch crashes.
Volkswagen has spent more than four months attempting to gain US approval for a compensation plan. Last week VM named a new head of its US legal department to help resolve the case.
Feinberg told the paper he was unlikely to meet his goal of setting up the claims fund within 60 to 90 days, saying: “My hands are tied as long as VW and the authorities have not overcome their differences.”
He says VW has given him full authority to set compensation levels.
“Look at my prior cases: 97 percent of the victims of Sept. 11 accepted my offer. At GM and BP it was more than 90 percent, too. That has to be my target for VW,” Feinberg said.
“It is a purely business transaction, less emotional. I see that from emails I get from vehicle owners, who say things like: ‘Mr. Feinberg, I know I haven’t lost a relative, I just want to be treated fairly.’ They are all quite reasonable.”
When asked if he would consider claims that Volkswagen’s vehicles have damaged the health of claimants, Feinberg said, “I am inclined to not accept that and tell such people they should sue Volkswagen if they want to.”
It may be in Volkswagen’s best interest to remedy the issue sooner than later. Shares at the company are down 26% since the start of the year.
VW has already promised goodwill packages worth $1,000 to tens of thousands of VW owners in the United States.