The German automaker has paid over $7.4 billion to buy back nearly 350,000 diesel vehicles in the US as of February, according to the court filing, seen by Reuters. The world’s biggest auto concern reportedly owns 37 secure-storage facilities, including a decrepit football stadium in Michigan, a former paper mill in Minnesota, and a sun-bleached patch of desert in California.
The parking lots serve “to ensure the responsible storage of vehicles that are bought back under the terms of Volkswagen,” according to the company.
“These vehicles are being stored on an interim basis and routinely maintained in a manner to ensure their long-term operability and quality, so that they may be returned to commerce or exported once US regulators approve appropriate emissions modifications,”spokeswoman Jeannine Ginivan told the agency.
Volkswagen has stashed over $25 billion to settle claims from environmental watchdogs, affected owners, states and dealers across the US. The automaker offered to buy back around 500,000 polluting vehicles in the country. The buybacks will reportedly continue through the end of 2019.
The car company has to re-acquire or fix 85 percent of the vehicles involved by June 2019 or foot another huge fine. In February, Volkswagen said it had repaired or fixed nearly 83 percent of covered vehicles. The company reportedly sent 437,273 letters offering nearly $8 billion in compensation and buybacks as of February.
Volkswagen Group, which owns the Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Porsche, SEAT, and Skoda brands, admitted it had used sophisticated software to cheat on emissions tests, installed in as many as 11 million diesel vehicles sold worldwide.
In 2015, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) accused the German group of cheating on emissions tests. The agency found discrepancies in several models of four-cylinder diesel vehicles manufactured since 2009, including the Jetta, Beetle, Golf, Passat and the Audi A3. In April 2017, Volkswagen was put on three years’ probation and had to pay $4.3 billion in federal penalties.