The cheating diesels that Volkswagen has bought back as part of its settlement with purchasers are sitting in vehicular purgatories across the country, waiting to be repaired so they can go to new homes. Only some of them were sprung early: 69 “Dieselgate” vehicles were stolen only to turn up with fake Michigan titles at an auto auction in Kentucky.
Volkswagen needs a lot of space to store cars that have its TDI “clean diesel” engines that were cheating on their emissions tests, a global scandal that led to massive penalties, recalls, and even criminal charges against the company and against key executives involved in the scandal.
While a fix has been approved for most of the recalled vehicles, they still remain in vehicular purgatory awaiting repairs. They’re being kept at sites including the port of Baltimore, an Air Force base in California, and the parking lot of the Pontiac Silverdome, former home of the Detroit Lions and Detroit Pistons.
What we know so far
With hundreds of vehicles stashed in the Silverdome lot, someone must have realized that the cars wouldn’t be missed immediately. Indiana state police told WDRB-TV (via Jalopnik) that at least 69 vehicles have disappeared from the lot. The cars were given counterfeit Michigan titles, and were sold at auto auctions in Indiana and Kentucky.
“Volkswagen was keeping track of all these vehicles they were purchasing back or buying back,” a state police officer told the TV station. “When these VIN numbers start[ed] showing up again in their system, that’s when the red flags started flying up.”
Volkswagen was keeping track of these vehicles for exactly this reason, and learned about their whereabouts when the stolen cars legally re-entered state databases after they were inspected.
The seller who brought 32 Volkswagens and Audis to an auction in Kentucky told WDRB through a legal representative that the cars were purchased from “a supplier out of Michigan,” and the seller bought them for around $11,000 each, selling them for around $18,000.
State police in Indiana believe that the people responsible for the actual theft are further up the chain, and that the auto thefts may have been an inside job. The FBI is investigating, but no one has been charged in this case yet.
A fix has been approved for most of the recalled vehicles, which means they could start to be repaired and re-sold soon.
What you should know
Even if you don’t live anywhere near Kentucky or Indiana, the thefts could affect you, since the vehicles have since made their way across the country. So far, authorities say they are aware of vehicles were sold to dealerships in California and Georgia.
If your car’s title looks sketchy or something seems off, contact the local police or sheriff’s department to the facility that conducted the vehicle’s inspection listed on the title.