Exclusive: California regulator says testing to begin on Volkswagen diesel fix

Fri Jul 29, 2016 1:41pm EDT
 
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By Joseph White

(Reuters) - Volkswagen AG and the California Air Resources Board will begin testing hardware and software that could help the German automaker avoid buying back as many as 475,000 diesel cars sold in the United States with improperly designed pollution controls, the head of the board told Reuters.

Air Resources Board Chair Mary Nichols said the agency is working with the German automaker to test potential fixes for three generations of Volkswagen cars equipped with 2.0-liter diesel engines and pollution control systems improperly designed to operate only during government pollution control tests.

Winning regulatory approval to repair, rather than buy back, diesel cars that don't comply with U.S. clean air standards would give a boost to Volkswagen's efforts to contain the financial and reputational damage caused by the diesel emissions cheating scandal. Nichols said VW is making strides in its effort to regain credibility with regulators.

“They brought in a whole new team of people to work on various aspects of this,” Nichols said in an interview. "There’s just a greater sense that we’re dealing with people who have access to the decision makers in Germany, and who understand their credibility is on the line."

Nichols' positive words about VW are significant because the state of California is working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to evaluate the automaker's proposed fixes.

In January, the Air Resources Board rejected a Volkswagen proposal to repair rigged diesel emissions systems, saying it fell "far short of meeting the legal requirements."

Volkswagen officials, Nichols said, have told California officials they believe combinations of hardware and software could be developed to allow all three generations of 2.0-liter diesel cars sold between 2009 and 2016 to stay on the road.

VW spokeswoman Jeannine Ginivan said on Thursday the automaker "continues to work with the EPA and CARB to develop approved emissions modifications as quickly as possible. If proposed modifications are approved by the EPA and CARB, Volkswagen will modify eligible vehicles free of charge" for owners of the affected vehicles.   Continued...

 
A U.S. flag flutters in the wind above a Volkswagen dealership in Carlsbad, California, U.S. May 2, 2016.  REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo