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VW to angry owners: Want cash to buy another one?

Volkswagen's 2015 Sportwagen TDI is one of the vehicles caught in the company's expanding emissions scandal, which already has affected 11 million VW and Audi diesel cars worldwide.

Volkswagen’s 2015 Sportwagen TDI is one of the vehicles caught in the company’s expanding emissions scandal, which already has affected 11 million VW and Audi diesel cars worldwide.

(James Halfacre / Volkswagen)

Volkswagen, reeling from its ever-widening diesel emissions scandal, has quietly begun a campaign to persuade owners to stay with the brand.

The company unveiled an Owner Loyalty Bonus program this week, with no fanfare, offering current VW owners a $2,000 incentive on purchases of new, presumably non-polluting vehicles.

Volkswagen, the world’s largest car company, last month was forced to admit it had installed “defeat devices” in 11 million of its purported clean diesel vehicles -- including many model year 2009 to 2015 Beetles, Jettas, Passats and Golfs, as well as some Audi A3s. About 482,000 of those vehicles were sold in the United States, and about 15% of those were sold in California.

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The current offer, which expires Nov. 2, is extended to any individual who currently owns a VW, or any of that person’s family members, provided they live at the same address. Under the terms of the incentive, “Returning Volkswagen owners” could be eligible for $2,000 off a “new, unused 2015 or 2016 Jetta, Passat, CC, Beetle, Beetle Convertible, Eos, Golf, Golf GTI, Golf R, e-Golf, Golf SportWagen, Tiguan, Touareg and Touareg TDI,” per the company’s website.

Tellingly, the offer applies to gas models only. It excludes hybrids, the announcement says, and “all other TDI® Clean Diesel models.”

Those are the models that got the company in trouble. For now, until it sorts out its emissions issues with the Environmental Protection Agency, VW is not selling any new or certified pre-owned diesels at all.

At least one non-returning Volkswagen owner scoffed at the offer.

“They could give me a VW for free and I wouldn’t take it,” said Hollywood awards strategist Amy Grey, who was on her second Sportwagen TDI when the scandal broke.

Feeling “duped” by the company, Grey said she is embarrassed to be seen in the car she previously loved, and is taking a lot of guff from friends for driving it.

“Everyone knows you’re driving this horrible machine,” she said. “My friend saw me this morning and said, ‘I left my gas mask at home.’”

Bob Merlis, a music industry publicist who’s also a current owner, received the incentive offer and wasn’t impressed by the dollar amount or the conditions.

“The caveat is that it doesn’t apply to TDI,” he said.

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The offer left unanswered the most important question, he said: “So what are they going to do for me and my car?”

Some analysts have said the company will have to arrange some compensation to current “clean diesel” owners, and may ultimately have to buy back the affected vehicles.

But Grey said she doesn’t care how much VW offers. She’s done with the company.

“I’m not partaking of any of it,” she said. “I feel like I was betrayed by the brand, and I’m not doing any more business with them.”

Twitter: @misterfleming

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