Volkswagen's dieselgate fiasco has been one of the most infamous automotive scandals in modern times. After the German automaker was discovered to be using an emission defeat device with diesel cars sold around the world, it was hit with costs totaling more than $25 billion worldwide. Of that money, more than $7 billion has been spent buying back affected cars from the public; but where have they all gone?
As part of the dieselgate settlement, owners could choose from three options to remedy their woes: Allow Volkswagen to modify the vehicle to become compliant with emission laws, terminate the lease on a leased vehicle, or simply sell the car back to Volkswagen for an agreed upon amount. The third option is what many owners and prospective entrepreneurs chose to do, earning back thousands of dollars due to the value of the affected vehicles plummeting for private sale.
It turns out, the answer to Volkswagen's storage problem is to simply store cars wherever the company can find room. From parking lots to entire stadiums, the automaker has been leasing space to let cars gather dust. Currently, Volkswagen may have as many as 37 facilities across the United States where it is storing the vehicles, reports NPR, including a remote section of desert and an old paper mill.
Volkswagen worked diligently to buy back the affected models where possible. Of the 475,000 affected vehicles, VW has bought back more than 335,000 units. Subtract the 13,000 that it sold after clearing EPA inspection, and the 28,000 cars that the Germans destroyed, and you now have a rough estimate of somewhere in the neighborhood of 294,000 cars being stored all over the United States. Though most of these facilities are labeled as being secure, this hasn't stopped thieves from taking advantage of what they can get their hands on, even stealing entire vehicles.
Volkswagen agreed to fix or buy back at least 85 percent of the affected vehicles to comply with a settlement reached with U.S. authorities. Around 335,000 cars, or 71 percent of affected vehicles, were bought back as of December 2017. Volkswagen states that it has satisfied all but two percent of the vehicles, which means that it still needs to account for 9,500 cars by June 2019.
It is not clear what Volkswagen plans to do with the cars sitting in limbo in the coming months. A company spokesperson said that the vehicles are "being stored on an interim basis and routinely maintained in a manner to ensure their long-term operability and quality." Once regulators approve the company's next moves, Volkswagen may destroy, repair, or export the cars in order to begin freeing up space in the parking lots around the country.