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Volkswagen Dealer Reacts To Emissions Scandal Settlement

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Now we're going to get a dealer's perspective on the $15 billion settlement between Volkswagen and the U.S. government. Matthew Welch is general manager of Auburn Volkswagen. That's located just outside Seattle, Wash. Mr. Welch, thanks for joining us.

MATTHEW WELCH: You bet, my pleasure.

SIEGEL: How did you hear about this settlement, and what was your reaction to it?

WELCH: Well, we've been anticipating it for nine months, so reading it this morning, it's - how do I feel about it is - it's extraordinary. I mean it's - nothing's ever been done like this in the car business before.

SIEGEL: Is it the kind of settlement that dealers were hoping for?

WELCH: Well, it's definitely huge. I mean, when you're talking about billions of dollars, this is 15 billion - you know, that Toyota got fined 1 billion last year. So it's bigger than we ever imagined. The great news for the customer is it really takes care of them.

So reading through it, I mean, my goodness, some of my family members have diesels. I have over a thousand of our guests and customers that have diesels, and we never thought they'd be compensated to this level for cars they already love.

SIEGEL: Is there anything in this settlement that benefits dealers, that compensates dealers, what you and the others have experienced in this deception?

WELCH: You know, there's no fee that we get for buying a car back. You know, I don't believe that there's going to be monetary compensation in that regard but the fact that whatever the customer chooses will come through the dealership.

SIEGEL: So to take advantage of the settlement, any owner of a car would have to go to their Volkswagen dealer and...

WELCH: Right, and they can go to any Volkswagen dealer. But the fact that we're the point of contact to help them through this and be able to answer their questions and be able to walk them through the process - eventually we'll maybe be able to fix the cars.

Certainly we will have warranty work that will be great for our shop, but we're not in this for the compensation. We're in this to get back to doing business.

SIEGEL: Yeah. In the nine months since we learnt about Volkswagen's deception from the EPA, until this announcement, what did that do to your business? Were people avoiding Volkswagen until they saw this all settled?

WELCH: Yeah, the sales are definitely off...

SIEGEL: Yeah.

WELCH: ...Because 30 percent of our business was diesel in the Northwest. However, used TDIs as well as used cars have been successful, and then the new car gas models have all been very hot and in short supply. We're almost out of cars right now.

SIEGEL: Fifteen-billion dollars has got to have an impact on Volkswagen down the road. I mean, it's got to sideline something else that they would have spent $15 billion on.

WELCH: Certainly, and with the number of brands and makes that they have, I'm certain that would adjust things around the world. And there's probably only a few companies in the world that could compensate that much and still stay in business. So yes, it will affect investment at some point. The good news for us in the United States is that the next two years was already set.

SIEGEL: Trust seems to be at the heart of this whole issue...

WELCH: Yeah, yeah.

SIEGEL: ...For customers as well as dealers like yourself. You have to have trust in the manufacturer...

WELCH: For sure.

SIEGEL: ...For that matter. Do you feel that you can trust VW now?

WELCH: I do believe that the new leadership in the United States is trustworthy, and then the folks in charge of it in Germany that we've met this year I feel are very trustworthy. And I believe that they're going over and above to make things right.

SIEGEL: Matthew Welch, a Volkswagen dealer in Auburn, Wash. - Mr. Welch, thanks for talking with us.

WELCH: You bet. Thank you. Have a great day. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.