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VW Dieselgate: more progress in US

VW has agreed a mix of buybacks and fixes for about 80,000 polluting 3.0-liter diesel VW, Porsche and Audi cars in the USA. It's another step on the road to making Dieselgate history.

During a hearing on Tuesday in San Francisco, U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer also said German engineering company Robert Bosch GmbH, which produced the software for the VW diesels, has agreed in principle to settle civil allegations made by U.S. diesel vehicle owners.

Since admitting the emissions cheating in September 2015, Europe's largest carmaker - the second-largest in the world after Toyota - has been in talks with customers and governments over compensation and damages for the emissions-cheat software, which was installed on 11 million cars worldwide.

VW had admitted in September 2015 to installing secret software in 475,000 U.S. 2.0-liter diesel-engined cars to cheat exhaust emissions tests, making them appear far cleaner in testing than they really were during road operation. In reality, the vehicles emitted up to 40 times legally allowable particulate pollution levels. The company in June agreed to a settlement worth about $15 billion to address those 2.0-liter vehicles, including an offer to buy back all 475,000 cars.

Now an additional settlement has been reached for cars with larger, 3.0-liter engines. The deal was agreed between VW and the Justice Department, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and California state officials.

3 liter engine settlement

The 80,000 3.0-liter diesel-engined vehicles the company had sold in the US had a different cheat: An undeclared auxiliary emissions system that allowed the vehicles to emit up to nine times allowable limits.

Judge Breyer said the German carmaker had agreed to buy back about 20,000 of those 80,000 cars. The rest of the cars, sold under the Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche brands, are to have the software corrected through a recall process. If the repairs fail to fix the problem, the cars must likewise be bought back by VW, Breyer said during the Tuesday hearing.

Breyer said owners of 3.0-liter vehicles would receive "substantial compensation" for getting their vehicles fixed or repaired, but said there were some remaining issues to be resolved, and set another hearing for Thursday for an update.

Volkswagen spokeswoman Jeannine Ginivan said the deal "is another important step forward in our efforts to make things right for our customers."

Penance and restoration money

The U.S. Justice Department said Volkswagen had agreed to contribute another $225 million to a fund to offset excess diesel emissions, while the state of California said in a separate court filing that Volkswagen had agreed to boost the number of electric vehicles it sells in the state.

Volkswagen has agreed to add at least three additional electric vehicle models to the cars it sells in California by 2020, including an SUV, and must sell an average of at least 5,000 electric vehicles annually. Volkswagen also agreed to pay California's state air board $25 million.

In a major strategy reboot over the past several months, the company has been re-orienting its development plans toward a much stronger focus on electric vehicles than it had before the 'dieselgate' scandal. (Picture at top: the VW Budd-E concept EV.) A few weeks ago, VW announced that it intends to be the global market leader in EVs by 2025. It has also decided to drop diesel cars from its US model lineup. 

 

nz (Reuters, dpa)

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