Toward the end of last year, Volkswagen was in hot water with the German government for selling preproduction vehicles to customers. At the time, it seemed as though this was limited mostly to European markets, but according to a report published Friday by the New York Times, that may not be the case.that
Currently, Volkswagen is being sued by three US customers who unknowingly bought preproduction vehicles. Their suit alleges that Volkswagen defrauded these customers by passing off preproduction ex-press fleet vehicles off as certified preowned models.
You might be wondering why selling a preproduction car to a person for road use is a big deal. The problem with preproduction cars is that they may not be certified for emissions compliance, etc., and are often modified further by the manufacturer before reaching production. As far as the government is concerned, that's not great.
This isn't the first we've heard of VW selling preproduction cars in the US. Last year the company issued a recall for 252 preproduction vehicles that had been sold to customers, which the company offered to buy back. It would appear that the cars mentioned in the lawsuit were recalled, but the owners didn't accept Volkswagen's offer.
"We issued the recall not because of any identified defect but out of an abundance of caution, after Volkswagen discovered that documentation about possible modifications made during the internal use period may be incomplete," said a Volkswagen representative in a statement to Roadshow. "The company is in the process of buying these vehicles back. We are reviewing a complaint which was filed in federal court for the Eastern District of Virginia on March 21. It contains numerous factual misrepresentations which we will address in due course through the appropriate legal channel."
This process had been going on in Europe from 2006-2018, and the US lawsuit alleges that this practice was in use in the US from 2011-2016. This means it could be the tip of a small-to-medium iceberg, specifically because manufacturers like Volkswagen typically only make a few hundred preproduction examples of a new model as opposed to thousands, so the odds of one accidentally ending up in your driveway are slim.