Volkswagen AG said it has approval to repair most of its rigged European diesel engines and made a deal with U.S. regulators to resubmit questionable software for review in 85,000 other vehicles, signs of progress in its effort to overcome the two-month-old emissions crisis.
German automotive regulator KBA has approved a software update for 2.0-liter diesel motors and has agreed in principle to a plan for 1.6-liter engines, Chief Executive Officer Matthias Mueller told about 1,000 company executives Monday in Wolfsburg, Germany. The costs and complexity of the fixes, which apply to more than 90 percent of the affected vehicles in Europe, are “manageable,” he said in excerpts of the speech obtained by Bloomberg.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and California Air Resources Board agreed to let Volkswagen seek approval for a revised version of software in 85,000 diesel engines that had been targeted in the latest probe by U.S. regulators, the company said. Assuming it’s approved, the fix should cost in the mid-double-digit millions of euros, Volkswagen said.
Both deals show movement toward solutions in the scandal Volkswagen is facing on three fronts: cheating software installed in about 11 million vehicles worldwide with 1.2-, 1.6- and 2.0-liter diesel engines; irregular carbon-dioxide ratings on about 800,000 vehicles; and questionable software in the larger diesel engines in the U.S.
While the European fix won’t apply in the U.S., it does show a path forward for most of the cars that had cheating software worldwide. Europe is chiefly affected, with a recall planned for as many as 8.5 million vehicles.
The 1.2-liter diesel probably only needs a software update, with the plan to be presented to the KBA by the end of the month, Mueller said. The repair for the 1.6-liter engine is less complex than initially suspected. In addition to upgraded software, the cars will need “relatively simple changes” to the air-filter system, according to the CEO. He didn’t elaborate on the cost of expected regulatory fines and lawsuits in the U.S. and Europe.
“Our assumption that substantive changes to the motor would be necessary have not come true,” Mueller said in the speech. He didn’t comment on what affect the fixes may have on the vehicles’ acceleration and fuel economy.
Starting the European recall would be a step forward in resolving the crisis that’s engulfed Volkswagen since becoming public on Sept. 18. The company has provided few answers even as new revelations come to light.
And the U.S. negotiations on larger cars could close a new front that opened up in the probe just last week.
On Friday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board said they were investigating Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche models with 3.0-liter diesel engines as far back as the 2009 model year, after initially focusing on newer versions. VW had rejected the initial claims, straining its relations with the regulators.
Three pieces of software installed to help control the cars’ emissions systems weren’t properly declared in an application for approval, and one of them “is regarded as a defeat device according to applicable U.S. law,” Audi said. A defeat device alters emissions-control systems in a way that violated clean-air laws.
Mueller, appointed in the wake of the scandal, said he plans to present an interim report on the status of the investigation in mid-December as the final results will still take several months. Ultimately, he plans to present a new strategy by mid-2016. The goal is to shake up the company’s autocratic structure and re-focus on three topics: digitalization, sustainability and integrity.
“We need a bit more Silicon Valley,” said Mueller.