US District Judge Charles Breyer told Volkswagen and regulators that they have until April 21 to present a plan to bring over 600,000 Volkswagen, Audi, and Porsche diesel vehicles into compliance with emissions regulations.
VW Group was supposed to have presented a detailed explanation of how it will fix its diesel vehicles to the San Francisco-based judge today, but Judge Breyer granted the company a month extension. VW’s diesel models made after 2009 were discovered to be equipped with illegal software that circumvented the cars’ emissions control system, allowing the cars to spew between up to 40 times the amount of nitrogen oxide (NOx) that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) permits.
Judge Breyer will preside over the lawsuit that VW Group faces from the Department of Justice, as well as a consolidated class action suit that represents more than 500 separate lawsuits against Volkswagen. The judge said that he permitted the extension because former FBI director Robert Mueller, who Breyer appointed to oversee negotiations between air regulators and Volkswagen, assured Breyer that the two parties, “had made substantial progress toward a resolution that would get the polluting cars off the road,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
If the company can’t detail how it will get polluting cars off the road and whether there will be any payments to consumers by next month, Breyer has said that he would schedule a trial for this summer.
Some regulators and attorneys have accused VW Group of dragging its heels in providing information on the scandal to US officials. In January, California’s Air Resources Board (CARB) rejected Volkswagen’s proposals to fix its 2.0L diesel engines, saying that the company hadn’t sufficiently addressed how the fixes would affect the cars’ gas mileage, lifespan, and On Board Diagnostics system. Top lawyers from several states also have accused VW Group of refusing to turn over e-mails and correspondence to the prosecutors in a timely manner.
In early March, VW Group published a defense of its managers’ behavior in the months and years leading up to the September discover of the defeat devices by the EPA, which subsequently sent the automaker’s stock into a tail spin. The company claims that it did not mean to mislead investors, because its managerial staff knew very little about what software lower-level engineers were writing into the cars.
In an e-mail to Ars, Volkswagen spokesperson Mark Gillies said, “Volkswagen is committed to resolving the US regulatory investigation into the diesel emissions matter as quickly as possible and to implementing a solution for affected vehicles, as we work to earn back the trust of our customers and dealers and the public. We continue to make progress and are cooperating fully with the efforts undertaken by Judge Breyer, working through Director Mueller, to bring about a prompt and fair resolution of the US civil litigation.”