As I continue to film my as-yet-untitled reality show (I’m lobbying hard for Car Trek), I’ve had many automotive misadventures — the highlight of which was having a race track all to myself with a newly purchased 1991 Corvette ZR1. And during the drive south from the Corvette seller’s location in Denver to the track’s location in Pueblo, Colorado, I came across a field with thousands of abandoned Volkswagen diesels.
Since the incredible diesel scandal surrounding Volkswagen’s cheating emission systems, more than 350,000 cars have been bought back from owners. Given the very generous buyout offers, and given that the "fix" diminishes performance and fuel economy, it’s no wonder most VW diesel owners jumped at the chance to dump their cars. This buyback cost Volkswagen $7.4 billion — and more than a year after this program began, it appears that they are still hoarding the vast majority of the cars in various places all over the country. It’s probably what my life would look like if I had $7.4 billion to spend.
While I’ve seen pictures showing abandoned VW diesels in parking lots at stadiums and airports, what struck me about this holding facility was the backdrop. The sun was setting to the West, silhouetting the Rocky Mountains as the golden glow sparkled across the rooftops of the thousands of Volkswagens. If it wasn’t such a weird situation, you could almost call it beautiful.
Most cars looked to be in excellent condition, and the dirt field housing them appeared to have new fencing — along with 24-hour security. During my quick stop to take pictures, I received a stern glance from one security guard patrolling the lot in a black Kia Sorento. I imagine security is necessary, as the setting would be ripe for vandals and thieves — and if I were storing thousands of Volkswagens, I would leave all the keys in the cars. Keeping track of identical VW switchblade keys in a giant key safe would be a nightmare — or, at least, a valet driver’s worst nightmare.
Unlike the government funded "Cash for Clunkers" program, another massive buyback from recent memory, these cars aren’t likely destined for the scrap heap. With the government approved fix to their emission systems, these cars can be resold — but it appears Volkswagen is still figuring out exactly how best to do this.
Flooding the wholesale market with 350,000 used Volkswagens would be insane, as it would certainly have a negative effect on new and used Volkswagen values. Shipping them off to be sold in foreign countries is another idea, especially ones with less strict emission regulations — but that would be a bad PR move for Volkswagen, as their cars would continue to pollute the world. So perhaps the best solution is to junk the cars — especially as the storage costs continue to mount.
While Volkswagen works out its best worst solution, these perfectly usable cars will continue to waste away. Still, I can’t pass judgement on VW, as I have a dozen working cars wasting away in a barn currently — and I keep buying more. It really is just like Hoovie’s Garage — just on a massive, multi-billion dollar corporate level … Find a Volkswagen for sale
Tyler Hoover went broke after 10 years in the car business and now sells hamburgers to support his fleet of needy cars. He lives in Wichita, Kansas.