SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – U.S. and California regulators have approved a fix for 38,000 emissions-cheating Volkswagen vehicles that will save the German automaker more than $1 billion in potential fines under a settlement approved last May.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and California Air Resources Board approved the modification Friday, three days before an Oct. 23 deadline that would have forced to Volkswagen to start paying fines under the terms of the settlement. The approval document was filed with the court on Monday.
“Volkswagen is pleased that it has received regulatory approval for an emissions-compliant repair (ECR) to bring more than 38,000 Generation 2.1 and 2.2 3.0L TDI V6 vehicles in the United States into compliance with the emissions standards to which they were certified,” Volkswagen Group of America spokeswoman Jeannine Ginivan said in an email. “We are working closely with our regulators to develop approved solutions for the remaining 3.0L TDI V6 vehicles as quickly as possible.”
Eligible customers will be notified that they can receive an emissions-reducing modification free of charge at their preferred dealership, Ginivan said.
The 3.0-liter settlement could have set Volkswagen back by up to $4.4 billion if it failed to get approval for its repair of the vehicles. Under the terms of that deal, the automaker agreed to buy back or repair some 80,000 3.0-liter engine vehicles equipped with defeat devices to mask excess emissions of nitrogen oxide – up to 40 times more than allowed under federal law.
It was Volkswagen’s second multibillion-dollar settlement with consumers and regulators, following a $14.7 billion deal to lay rest to claims over some 500,000 2-liter diesel engine vehicles tainted by emissions-cheating software.
The approval by regulators on Friday means Volkswagen will avoid the higher cost of buying back thousands of 2013-2016 model-year diesel Porsche Cayenne, Volkswagen Touareg and 2013-2015 Audi Q7 sport utility vehicles.
Volkswagen has paid more than $20 billion in U.S. civil settlements and criminal fines so far for installing emissions-cheating software in some 11 million vehicles worldwide, and U.S. prosecutors have criminally charged six of its executives with conspiracy and obstruction of justice.
The German automaker also faces two securities class actions for allegedly misleading U.S. investors about its compliance with federal emissions regulations.