German regulators: New software alone can’t fix VW emissions rigging

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The German Transport Ministry said Monday in Berlin that officials believed that major technical changes would be needed to fix diesel models affected in the embattled Volkwagen group’s emissions cheating scandal.

Simply replacing the test manipulation software in the cars would not be adequate to correct the problem, which affects about 540,000 vehicles domestically alone, regulators said.

The diesel emissions scandal involves up to 11 million vehicles worldwide.

Meanwhile, Volkswagen’s supervisory board met Monday in the northern German city of Wolfsburg as the company struggles with the emissions-cheating scandal that has engulfed the group.

The company’s revelations last week of irregularities in the testing for carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in up to 800,000 VW cars has added to the crisis.

In New York, Fitch Ratings followed the other major ratings agencies by downgrading VW’s corporate debt, by two notches from A to BBB+ with a negative outlook. The move could raise VW’s cost of borrowing in credit markets.

VW has lost about one-third of its stock value since admitting in September to installing software in several of its diesel-powered models aimed at cheating on emissions tests around the world.

VW said last month it was setting aside 6.7 billion euros (7.2 billion dollars) to cover the costs of the scandal involving its diesel models. Europe’s biggest carmaker said last week the new revelations on CO2 emissions could cost an additional 2 billion euros.

An engineer working in the automaker’s research and development department told his supervisors about the falsified reports involving CO2 emissions at the end of October, the weekend Bild newspaper reported.

Other VW employees have admitted to knowledge of the scam, the report said.

In the United States, the company said Monday that it plans to offer owners of affected VW diesel models 500 dollars, plus a 500-dollar dealership credit and three years of free roadside assistance in an attempt to mend fences from the emissions scandal.

The offer is made with no strings attached or waiver of rights to additional damages for about 480,000 2-litre engine models in the US.

“We are working tirelessly to develop an approved remedy for affected vehicles,” Volkswagen US chief executive Michael Horn said in a statement. “In the meantime, we are providing this goodwill package as a first step towards regaining our customers’ trust.”

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