Volkswagen can sell (some) diesel cars in the US again

The eligible, repaired 2015 vehicles won't make a dent in its $24 billion fine.

Suzanne Plunkett / Reuters

Volkswagen is about to sell diesel vehicles for the first time in the US since its emission scandal broke in 2015. The automaker has received the EPA's blessing to sell 2015 diesel models that have been updated with new hardware and anti-pollution software, VW spokesperson Jeannine Ginivan told Bloomberg.

The EPA's nod is mainly symbolic, as it only applies to 67,000 diesels from 2015, of which just 12,000 remain on dealer lots. As such, it'll have approximately zero impact on the $24 billion VW has put aside to pay for the scandal. Around 475,000 VW cars were affected by "Dieselgate," though it could have been a lot worse if diesels were more popular in the US -- around 97 percent of US cars are gas-powered.

Volkswagen will not sell new diesel vehicles in the US until at least 2018, and possibly not even after that. It made a pivot to electric cars instead, promising to build multiple EV models in the US starting in 2021. While that will be better for the planet, the change will cost up to 30,000 jobs, mostly through robotic automation in its plants.

Volkswagen's agreement with the EPA will eventually include 2015 models that it repurchased from owners in a settlement last year, Bloomberg notes. Of the 475,000 owners affected, 340,000 elected to take a buyback of between $12,500 and $44,000, depending on the model. The remaining buyers elected to keep their cars and have them fixed by VW in exchange for a payment as high as $10,000.

Cars eligible for the fix and resale include 67,000 2015 TDI Jetta, Golf, Audi A3, Beetle and others with the third-gen 2.0 liter TDI diesel engine. VW will soon reveal whether earlier 2.0 TDI models with first- and second-gen motors can be fixed. As for the 3.0 liter TDI engines on the VW Touareg, Porsche Cayenne and other larger models, Volkswagen is buying back all pre-2012 versions because they can't be fixed, and will announce terms of a settlement with owners of 2013 and newer models later this year.