Volkswagen seems well on the way to get final approval on a proposed settlement in the emissions test scandal, but the judge in the case said at a court hearing on Tuesday it could take up to another seven days before his definite order.
A decision on the 14.7-billion-dollar settlement affects hundreds of thousands of diesel cars sold by Volkswagen and its subsidiaries in the United States.
Judge Charles Breyer, who gave preliminary approval to the settlement in July, praised it Tuesday during a three-hour hearing in US District Court in San Francisco but said he wants to examine it one more time before he rules definitively.
Robert Giuffra, a lawyer for Volkswagen, said during the hearing that owners of the cars have overwhelmingly accepted a settlement offered by the German automaker. More than 339,000 owners of VW diesel cars with 2-litre engines have already registered to accept the compensation offered by the company, Giuffra said.
The number of owners who have rejected the terms of the settlement is less than 1 per cent. The settlement has been offered to US customers who bought about 475,000 Volkswagen diesel cars equipped with 2-litre engines. Owners have until 2018 to make a decision on whether to accept the offer.
Breyer said in July the deal was fair and reasonable after hearing US authorities, plaintiffs and Volkswagen make their cases.
Settlements with US prosecutors and dealers came later, increasing the overall amount of the settlement from 14.7 billion dollars to 16.5 billion dollars.
The existence of the software was revealed last year when US regulators fined Volkswagen last year after it found that software installed in the cars evades US emissions testing.
Under the settlement the German carmaker would spend up to 10 billion dollars buying back or repairing the 2-litre diesel cars, which include cars made by Volkswagen subsidiary Audi.
VW has also agreed to compensate owners between 5,100 and 10,000 dollars each. In addition, the carmaker will spend 2.7 billion dollars to support environmental projects, with an additional 2 billion dollars earmarked for research on reducing emissions.
The agreement would bring to an end hundreds of civil lawsuits filed against Volkswagen by US consumers, who can choose to accept the offer or opt out and pursue litigation on their own.
Breyer has been overseeing the civil suits brought against VW and must approve the settlement before it can come into force. Final approval of the settlement was put off to give both VW and regulators time to iron out details of the buyback and repair programmes.
While it appears the final approval of the settlement will be a formality, the case is far from over.
Volkswagen and regulators still have to come up with a solution for 85,000 cars with 3-litre engines, which allegedly also have illegal software to cheat on emissions tests. By the next hearing on November 3 Breyer expects concrete proposals on how these cars can fixed.
Individual US states also are suing Volkswagen over the affair. Missouri is the latest to file a claim against Volkswagen alleging violations of its air quality laws. More than 7,800 diesel cars in Missouri are affected by the scandal, the state's attorney general said Monday.
Similar lawsuits have been filed by states like Vermont, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York and Pennsylvania.
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