U.S. judge turns up heat on VW with March emissions fix deadline

Thu Feb 25, 2016 5:47pm EST
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By David Shepardson

(Reuters) - A federal judge turned up the heat on Volkswagen AG (VOWG_p.DE: Quote) on Thursday, setting a March deadline for the German automaker to state whether it has found an emissions fix for 600,000 diesel vehicles that is acceptable to U.S. regulators.

U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer in San Francisco said he wants a definitive answer on the status of a fix by March 24.

Noting that VW had admitted in September that its vehicles on U.S. roads were using software to emit up to 40 times legally allowable pollution, Breyer said time was running out.

"Six months is long enough" to determine if this is a fixable problem, Breyer said. "This is an ongoing problem."

The U.S. Justice Department last month sued Europe's biggest automaker for up to $46 billion for violating U.S. environmental laws. VW and its Audi and Porsche brands continue to be barred from selling any new 2016 diesel models in the United States. VW also faces more than 500 lawsuits from U.S. owners.

VW lawyer Robert Giuffra told Breyer at the hearing that the automaker is making progress in trying to reach a settlement with the Justice Department, the Environmental Protection Agency and California Air Resources Board.

"We are committed to resolving these matters as quickly as possible," Giuffra said, adding that the diesel emissions issue involves up to 11 million vehicles in 100 countries.

Giuffra declined to offer specifics on the settlement talks, saying the Justice Department had asked VW not to discuss any aspect of the negotiations.   Continued...

The logo of German carmaker Volkswagen is seen on a wheel at a showroom of Swiss car importer AMAG in Duebendorf, Switzerland February 12, 2016. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann