VW owners: How to claim your settlement

As part of a record $15 billion settlement, owners and lessees of most Volkswagen (VLKAY) diesel-powered vehicles will see some monetary relief.

The agreement, the largest auto-related class-action settlement in U.S. history, is designed to provide choice and flexibility to about 475,000 owners of VW vehicles that were engineered to cheat government emissions tests. Every owner or lessee of the cars covered by the agreement will receive cash compensation, as well as the option of either selling their vehicles back to VW or using the automaker's yet-to-be-unveiled emissions fix.

The settlement may provide a measure of relief to VW owners, who have expressed concern about not only the value of their cars but ongoing emissions issues. Many customers had been drawn to the carmaker's image of "clean diesel" and felt betrayed after researchers uncovered the emissions cheat last year. Under the agreement, VW will buy back the vehicles at their pre-scandal valuations.

The settlement is "designed to achieve not only economic justice for consumers, but justice for the environment," said Elizabeth Cabraser, court-appointed lead counsel for the consumer plaintiffs, on a conference call to discuss the agreement. "This is meant to be a consumer-friendly, simple, expedited process."

The details of the settlement are at VWcourtsettlement.com, where owners and lessees can keep on eye on developments in the agreement, Cabraser said. The next steps involve a preliminary approval from the court, scheduled for July 26, with the buybacks, fixes and cash payments likely beginning this fall.

The German automaker will pay about $10 billion to either buy back or repair the vehicles. It also will pay $2.7 billion for environmental mitigation and another $2 billion for research on zero-emissions vehicles.

Here's the basic framework of the settlement:

Which cars are covered? The settlement applies to vehicles with 2-liter TDI engines vehicles. The makes and models that are covered are: VW Beetles from 2013-2015; VW Golfs from 2010-2015; VW Jettas from 2009-2015; VW Passats from 2012-2015; and Audi A3s from 2010-2013 and 2015.

Which cars aren't covered? Separate settlement talks are ongoing involving VW vehicles with 3-liter TDI engines, so those cars aren't covered. Cabraser said these vehicles are mostly Audis and Porsches.

What actions can I take now? Read up on the details about the settlement and decide whether you'd rather sell back your car or get it fixed. Consumers won't be able to file a claim until after the judge has approved the settlement and the public comment period is over. After that, consumers will be able to file claims at the settlement website.

How much will I receive in cash compensation? The cash portion will range between $5,100 to $10,000 per vehicle, depending on the model and year.

How much will VW pay to buy back my car? Again, that depends on the age and model of the car, but the trade-in value will be locked in as of September 2015, or before the emissions scandal emerged and lowered the value of the cars. The buyback values, which include the cash compensation noted above, range from a low of about $12,500 for a VW Jetta Sedan TDI up to more than $44,000 for owners of the Audi A3 TDI Prestige, according to court documents.

What if I want to get the car fixed? VW owners can opt to keep their car, with the automaker providing a free modification to reduce emissions so that the vehicle passes inspection. Consumers will also receive the cash compensation. One issue to be aware of: VW has yet to come up with a fix that will be approved by U.S. regulators.

What if i leased the car? Lessees will be able to end their lease agreements and receive a cash payment, although the amounts are lower than those that owners will receive. The amounts range from about $2,600 to $4,000.

Can I keep driving my car? Yes, said Cabraser. "They are legal to drive until a fix is available and implemented," she noted. The emissions from the cars until the fix is ready has been factored into the $2.7 billion for environmental mitigation that VW has agreed to pay, she noted.

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