No (Four) Pot of Gold: Some Volkswagen Diesel Owners are Stuck Between Borders

U.S. owners of illegally polluting Volkswagen diesels have already flown to sunny vacation spots or picked up a new vehicle with the help of buyback and compensation checks. North of the border, over 100,000 Canadians who own a 2009-2016 TDI model are waiting for their cut of a $2.1 billion settlement.

However, Volkswagen’s “we’re sorry” gravy train isn’t rolling into everyone’s driveway. Some owners are finding that their vehicles are stuck in a cross-border limbo.

Consider the plight of a Toronto-area woman who picked up a used fifth-generation Jetta in July of 2015. Just two months after getting into her new ride, Jacqueline Charlesworth, like so many others hoped to drop the model in exchange for cash.

Unfortunately, taking part in VW’s self-shakedown proved difficult. Seventeen months after the scandal went public, Charlesworth still owns the car, with no guarantee of a payment. The problem lies in the vehicle’s American VIN, and the fact that it’s now registered in Canada.

“I’m really stuck in between two worlds,” the owner told CBC.

Charlesworth found she wasn’t able to take part in the Canadian settlement, as her car hails from the U.S. No problem, as Volkswagen offered her $13,425  from the American settlement pot. Confident in knowing that her car would soon be gone and her compensation money would soon be in the bank, she bought a replacement vehicle.

That’s when her plans went south.

Two weeks ago, Volkswagen sent a letter explaining that it couldn’t offer her the money, as her car was registered in Canada before the September 2015 cut-off date. That’s a big problem, as Charlesworth planned to use the money to support her family. Since receiving the letter, she has attempted to sell the car online, only to find that no one wants to buy a “scandal car.”

Meanwhile, she hasn’t heard anything more from the company, nor has she heard back from lawyers contacted in an attempt to recoup the cost of her Jetta. Volkswagen Canada hasn’t replied to CBC‘s requests to find out if the automaker plans to bring marooned owners like Charlesworth into the Canuck settlement.

The number of owners trapped in the cross-border loophole is small, but their headache isn’t a minor one. According to David O’Connor, partner at Roy O’Connor LLP, one of many firms working on a class action lawsuit against Volkswagen, 15 to 20 clients have contacted law offices in Canada for this exact problem.

A version of this article first emerged on The Truth About Cars