2017, Jan - Feb

Costly Mistake? 

By Fred Ortlip

Stripped 2010 TDI ‘isn’t in the spirit of the buyback’

Five days before Christmas, Joe Mayer got some unsettling news about turning in his 2010 Golf TDI as part of VW’s diesel emissions settlement. 

The dealer called to cancel his appointment, putting more than $15,000 in buyback value in question after Mayer had transformed the car into a carcass, stripping almost every part he could while keeping the Golf drivable. 

David Tracy, writing for the website jalopnik.com, broke the story about Mayer, a twenty-something car salesman and apparent gearhead who lives in Cincinnati.

Gone were doors, seats, hood, bumpers, hatch and most of the interior. Tracy reported that Mayer felt like he was on legal ground, quoting settlement terms that specify that the car has to be operable, that it is driven under its own power. When Mayer noted that the condition of the car didn’t affect the payout, he figured he could make some extra money by parting it out. 

He bought the stick-shift TDI just weeks before the scandal broke in September 2015 and licensed it shortly after with the personalized DSLGATE plate, short for “dieselgate.” 

Tracy reported that Mayer told him that he talked with three VW settlement reps over the phone, asking if his plan to disassemble the car would affect the buyout. They told him something to the effect, “I’m not telling you you’re allowed to, but the only thing required is that it’s drivable and operable” 

So off came air bags, doors, fenders, the engine cover, the shifter cover, bumpers, a bumper support, the radio, seats and interior trim pieces. He even removed the bezels for the AC vents, the center console, the hatch and more, Tracy reported.

 Mayer planned to replace the driver’s seat with a milk crate and remove the head- and tail lights within a block of the dealership. 

Tracy said Mayer called him an hour before his appointment with the VW dealer who postponed the buyback. A rep told Mayer that VW believes stripping the car “wasn’t in the spirit of the buyback.” 

Without addressing the Mayer case specifically, VW provided this statement to Tracy: 

“Volkswagen’s priority is to make the 2.0L TDI settlement process as seamless and convenient as possible for our affected customers and we are working hard to ensure that this is the case. The program is governed by specific eligibility guidelines and other conditions which were agreed by all the parties and approved by the Court.

“Subject to regulatory approval of modifications that will allow vehicles to meet agreed emissions standards, the settlement allows Volkswagen to modify some of the vehicles we buy back so they can be returned to commerce rather than scrapped. The great majority of Volkswagen owners take very good care of their vehicles and are returning them for buyback intact.” 

Mayer said the VW rep didn’t give him a time frame for a new appointment, instead emailing an attorney’s number to whom he should direct questions. He thinks VW reps are “just trying to bide some time,” and he expects them to get back to him once they have spoken with their lawyers, a move he fears is meant to find some way or another to get out of having to pay him, Tracy reported. 

On Dec. 22, USA Today reported that VW attorney Robert Giuffra told U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer, who is overseeing the settlement, that “a handful of owners have brought in vehicles that have been regrettably, deliberately stripped of parts.”

Giuffra mentioned the story involving Mayer and pleaded to the judge that this behavior “goes too far. … They should not be engaging in deliberate parts stripping.”

Breyer responded: “I would echo that. … Clearly the purpose of the agreement by Volkswagen was to accept these cars in the condition that they were in as they were being driven on the road, and not to strip the cars. A word of caution is appropriate at this time.”

USA Today also reported that Jonathan Cohen, an attorney for the Federal Trade Commission, mentioned that the FTC is “absolutely against bad-faith behavior by consumers.” He went on to make clear, though, that VW can’t reject a vehicle based on its “superficial condition,” which USA Today infers to simply mean that normal wear and tear is allowable.

Tracy went the extra mile(s) on the story, driving from Detroit to Cincinnati to check out Mayer’s skeletal TDI. 

He wrote on jalopnik.com:

“The driveway was filled with two heavily modified Mazda Miatas and a tall stack of aftermarket wheels and tires. Joe, an avid Jalopnik reader, lives and breathes cars. So much so, in fact, that he didn’t adorn his Christmas tree with traditional decorations; he put up wrenches.

“I point this out because without knowledge of Joe’s automotive obsession, it’s hard to understand why he dismantled his VW Golf TDI. And I mean more than it being a theoretical loophole for his Dieselgate buyback, a loophole VW doesn’t seem keen on accepting. Indeed, over the past few days, hundreds of readers have spewed vitriol about Joe’s actions, saying he’s ‘petty,’ calling him a slew of nasty names, and saying what he did was a ‘dick move.’ But Joe says those people are getting him all wrong.”

Mayer said he didn’t strip the car to spite VW. He assumed the automaker was going to scrap the car eventually because it had not come up with an emissions fix and that the prospects of one were “slim.” He said the car had been in an accident before and assumed VW wouldn’t bother trying to sell it again anyway. 

Mayer said he would put the car back together if it came to that, adding, “I just wanted to see what would happen, and try to make some money off of it. I didn’t think I was doing anything so terrible.” 

Wearing ski goggles, Tracy took a turn behind the wheel of the winter-air-cooled bare-bones Golf and described the experience: “With no doors and no rear hatch, it felt like I was in a go-kart, cold wind blowing in my face, tons of visibility all the way around, and lots and lots of noises that closures and sound insulation were meant to hide.

“This car was a pure, raw driving experience. It was a simple manual transmission bolted to a loud, rattly diesel engine pulling around a big tub of metal with two grinning passengers inside having the times of their lives. How can you hate that?” VWCA

Fred Ortlip | vwautoist@mindspring.com


  • NEW SETTLEMENT:  Owners of 3.0-liter TDI models can now get in line for payback.
  • SAVE THE DATE: Planning commences for the 2017 VWCA Convention.
  • WHITHER THE TDI: An auction company may take the surge of VW diesel models.
  • INJECTOR INSERTS: How to remove and replace parts on early water-cooled models.


  • Driver's Seat - VW news & views by Cliff Leppke
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  • Frontdriver – Richard G. Van Treuren
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  • Retro Autoist - From the archives
  • Parting Shot - Photo feature
  • Local Volks Scene - A snapshot of local chapter activities
  • VW Toon-ups - Cartoon feature by Tom Janiszewski




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