Volkswagen's $14.7 billion diesel U.S. emissions settlement clears hurdle

Tue Jul 26, 2016 6:48pm EDT
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By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Volkswagen AG's (VOWG_p.DE: Quote) $14.7 billion settlement of its U.S. diesel emissions cheating scandal cleared another legal hurdle on Tuesday, as a federal judge gave the automaker preliminary approval to buy back up to 475,000 vehicles.

U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer in San Francisco set an Oct. 18 hearing for final approval. Preliminary approval means Volkswagen will soon enable owners of the 2.0 liter diesel-powered vehicles to access a website to learn how much they are eligible to receive.

The settlement, announced in June, centers around the largest-ever automotive buy-back offer in the United States. Coupled with possible vehicle repairs and payments to governmental agencies, that component of the settlement carries a $10 billion price tag.

Volkswagen said it continues to work with regulators to get fix approvals. VW told dealers last week that a planned fix could consist of software upgrades and some new catalytic converters.

Volkswagen also plans to offer a new proposal to fix 85,000 polluting 3.0 liter vehicles after regulators rejected an earlier plan, a Justice Department lawyer said on Tuesday. Earlier this month, the California Air Resources Board rejected as insufficient a plan to fix the vehicles, which include VW and Audi luxury cars from model years 2009-2016.

At the hearing, Justice Department lawyer Joshua Van Eaton said the German automaker had been meeting with regulators in recent weeks and planned to offer a new fix proposal in August.

Breyer said he wants another update on the 3.0 liter vehicle talks at an Aug. 25 hearing.

VW plans to hire between 250 to 300 people in Michigan to process settlement claims and will be overseen full-time by 40 VW Group of America employees. If needed VW could double the number of people it is hiring to process claims, said VW lawyer Sharon Nelles. VW is contracting for storage space to house vehicles it repurchases, she said.   Continued...

The logos of German carmaker Volkswagen is seen at a VW dealership in the Queens borough of New York, September 21, 2015. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton/File Photo