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Regulators back emissions fix for Volkswagen SUVs in US

[WASHINGTON] Volkswagen AG's proposed fix to emissions systems that had been rigged to pass pollution tests was approved for 38,000 SUVs with diesel V-6 engines, another milestone in the automaker's effort to remedy more than half a million US vehicles that skirted clean-air rules.

Winning approval by US and California regulators for the 3.0-liter modifications allows Volkswagen to avoid offering to buy-back the vehicles from owners and lessees under the terms of a US$1.2 billion court settlement reached in May. Repairs have been approved for the remaining VW and Audi vehicles powered by 2.0-liter engines, totaling about 477,000 vehicles. As part of that deal, the automaker agreed to buy back around 20,000 Touareg and Audi Q7s.

That leaves only about 40,000 vehicles with the automaker's 3.0-liter diesel V-6 engine for which an approved repair has not been received. In September, regulators rejected a fix for 2012-2014 Passat diesels with manual transmissions.

In Monday's announcement, the Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board approved VW's plan to remove illegal software in the SUVs, and modify hardware on some vehicles. The 2015 Audi Q7 as well as the 2013-2014 VW Touareg and Porsche Cayenne SUVs will receive a software update only, while Touaregs and Cayennes from model years 2015-2016 will get hardware changes as well.

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"To obtain these approvals, the companies submitted test data and technical information to EPA and CARB demonstrating that the fixes bring emissions into compliance with the standards to which the vehicles were originally certified, without negative impacts to vehicle reliability or durability," the EPA said in an email.

In a statement, VW spokeswoman Jeannine Ginivan said the company is "working closely with our regulators to develop approved solutions for the remaining 3.0L TDI V6 vehicles as quickly as possible." Volkswagen AG admitted in late 2015 that it rigged about 11 million diesel vehicles worldwide to cheat emissions tests, kicking off one of the largest corporate fraud scandals in the history of the global auto industry. The carmaker has since settled suits with consumers and regulators in the US and has agreed to buy back or fix the vehicles. Eight of its executives have been indicted in the US and two have pleaded guilty to their roles in the scandal.

VW's total costs from settlements, buybacks and other steps to remedy the scandal have reached some US$30 billion. Volkswagen took a surprise charge of US$3 billion in the third quarter after the buyback and repair efforts proved more complex than expected.

"The automakers will contact vehicle owners to offer them the modifications and an extended warranty free of charge," according to a statement from CARB.

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