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EPA approves long-awaited fix for Volkswagen diesel cars

A measuring hose for emissions inspections in diesel engines in the exhaust tube of a Volkswagen Golf 2.0 TDI diesel car.
Patrick Pleul | AFP | Getty Images
A measuring hose for emissions inspections in diesel engines in the exhaust tube of a Volkswagen Golf 2.0 TDI diesel car.

U.S. regulators have approved repairs for Volkswagen Group diesel cars that were engulfed in a scandal over excess emissions, meaning that owners eligible for buybacks can instead choose to accept a fix and cash compensation.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency authorized the fix to VW's 2-liter engine diesel cars from 2009 through 2014, including the Jetta, Jetta SportWagen, Golf, Beetle, Beetle Convertible and Audi A3.

After the fix, average fuel economy per vehicle will fall by up to 2 miles per gallon, VW spokeswoman Jeannine Ginivan said in an email.

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Consumers will still be allowed to sell their cars back to Volkswagen at a premium through a sweeping settlement worth more than $10 billion in total. But the deal had also prescribed free fixes and cash payouts as a second option if VW was able to deliver a government-approved repair.

Those payouts will range from about $5,100 to $9,800. The approved repairs cover about 326,000 vehicles, or 98% of the 2-liter diesels, and will restore the cars to normal emissions performance.

VW said the fix involves a mix of hardware improvements and software changes. The company had struggled to find a fix for nearly two years because in some cases there was not enough space for the hardware required to bring the vehicles into compliance.

"To obtain this approval, VW submitted test data and technical information that demonstrates that the modification will reduce emissions without negatively affecting vehicle reliability or durability," the EPA said in a statement. "VW will thoroughly identify any differences in vehicle attributes (such as fuel economy) so owners may make an informed choice."

VW's Ginivan said drivers "may notice some differences in vehicle operating characteristics after the modification, but no significant changes to key vehicle attributes are expected, including reliability, durability, vehicle performance, drivability or other driving characteristics."

Other than the fuel economy difference, the company "does not expect these changes to be noticeable for drivers," she said.

VW has admitted that it rigged some 11 million vehicles worldwide with software to evade pollution standards.

The scandal has cost the company more than $20 billion in fines and settlements. VW also plead guilty to criminal charges in the U.S., and several employees also face criminal charges as individuals.