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Volkswagen Scandal

A refund calculator for those affected by the 2015 Volkswagen emissions candal.




Q3 2016


Product Manager

Lead Product Designer



Interaction and UI


Volkswagen allowed vehicles to emit more pollutants than legally acceptable for over 550,000 vehicles sold. Consequently, in 2015, VW had to recall thousands of their vehicles. However, the company provided no easy way to notify how much money vehicle owners were being offered back.

The automatic refund calculator allows VW vehicle owners to easily assess their monetary refunds from the recall settlement.

My role was to uncover the user pain points associated with the settlement and to design the refund calculator to alleviate such pains.


My first step in this project was understanding the user pain points. Exactly why was it so difficult to access the refund values? By setting down the foundational problems, I could then make informed design decisions. 

What Was Volkswagen Doing?

A key part of this research was understanding Volkswagen's role. When I browsed the Volkswagen site, I discovered major problems with the company's response to provide support to its consumers. Here are my key findings:​



Extra Steps and Poor Visual Hierarchy

Volkswagen user flow has several unneeded steps before the user arrives to any useful information. Additionally, the recall lookup function is a far scroll down the page and has poor visual significance.

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VIN Number for Entry

Users must have their vehicle VIN number on hand in order to disclose additional information. A VIN number is not always easily accessible. 

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No Refund Estimates

Approved cars for the settlement are listed but refund estimates are not. Users must await an individual email before discovering his/her vehicle refund value. 

Additional Findings

After some further digging, I found that VW was offering two different recall options for their vehicle owners:


The estimated amount that Volkswagen will pay for the vehicle, based on its trade-in value as of September 2015, plus additional compensation. 


If the vehicle owner decides to keep the car and Volkswagen repairs it, then an alternate restitution amount is determined by the settlement. 

Project Goals

After compiling my research findings, I set down the goals and key design decisions for the refund calculator tool. Additionally, I defined Instamotor's relationship with the calculator.

Instamotor's Role

During VW's settlement, I was working at Instamotor, a startup company that runs an online marketplace for buying and selling used cars. 

Instamotor took this opportunity to help aid affected VW vehicle owners by building an automatic refund calculator. Additionally, this tool was also a great way to help drive SEO traffic. Vehicle owners with the intention to have their cars bought back by VW could potentially engage with Instamotor's service after using the calculator.​

Instamotor can be the next step in helping to replace a vehicle owner's recalled car.

By positioning Instamotor as the user's next step, we can drive organic traffic to the Instamotor site. 

Key Design Decisions

After exploring the settlement's details and establishing Instamotor's product goals for this tool, I concluded these key focus points:​


Alternate Vehicle Inputs 

Users can input vehicle information aside from the VIN number to calculate the refund value. Therefore, the user does not need to have the VIN number on hand to find the refund estimate. 

Prioritize Refund Values 

The monetary values of settlement refund should be given visual significance. 

Display Both Recall Options 

The refund calculator should display the refund values for both Buyback and Modification for easy decision making.  

Drive Organic Traffic 

Refund calculator is branded by Instamotor and has CTAs that lead to the Instamotor site. 


Below showcase the important design features for the automatic refund calculator. 

Alternate Vehicle Inputs

Instead of requiring users to have their VIN number on hand, the refund calculator tool provides alternate options to input vehicle information. The fields entail vehicle make and model, year, state, mileage, and additional features. 

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Displaying Recall Options and Refund Values

When providing the refund amount to the user, I made sure the calculations were clear and visible. The calculator also gives both the Buyback and Modification values side by side for ease of reference. 

Additionally, to make the experience as seamless, the refund values instantly populate as the user inputs the sufficient information:

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Driving Organic Traffic

If vehicles owners decide to have their car brought back to VW, then they are now in need of another car. Instamotor can be the user's next step in finding another vehicle to own! The refund calculator tool is Instamotor branded and has CTA's that lead to its main site.

Huge Wins!

The VW Refund Calculator increased organic traffic to the Instamotor site by 10% upon first week of release! 

With this being my first project at my time with Instamotor, the results were extremely rewarding. I deeply appreciate that I was given this opportunity to help aid these vehicle owners and also to grow the Instamotor company.