Volkswagen’s CEO Is Meeting With Top U.S. Regulator Over Emissions Scandal

January 7, 2016, 5:14 PM UTC
Volkswagen Announces Further Steps In Emissions Scandal Resolution
WOLFSBURG, GERMANY - DECEMBER 10: Volkswagen Group Chairman Matthias Mueller speaks to the media during an interview after a press conference to announce the latest update in the company's handling of the engine emissions scandal on December 10, 2015 in Wolfsburg, Germany. Volkswagen is continuing to grapple with the consequences after it admitted installing software that cheats during emissions tests into 11 million of its diesel cars sold worldwide. (Photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images)
Photograph by Carsten Koall — Getty Images

Volkswagen CEO Matthias Mueller will meet with the top U.S. environmental regulator next week, the highest-level talks since the German automaker admitted to using software to evade emissions requirements in 580,000 U.S. vehicles.

Mueller will meet with Environmental Protection Agency chief Gina McCarthy on Wednesday in Washington, agency spokeswoman Laura Allen said. The meeting is at the request of the German automaker, she said.

The meeting comes a week after the Justice Department filed a civil suit against VW seeking up to $48 billion in damages under the Clean Air Act.

The EPA said this week that after months of talks “recall discussions with the company have not produced an acceptable way forward. EPA continues to insist that VW develops effective, appropriate remedies as expeditiously as possible.”

VW declined to comment on next week’s meeting. Mueller also plans visits to Capitol Hill to meet with lawmakers.

On Tuesday, VW brand chief Herbert Diess said he is “confident we will find an acceptable solution.”

In an interview with Reuters, Diess said fixing older VW cars equipped with 2.0-liter diesel engines will be more difficult than bringing more recent models into compliance.

Some U.S. regulators and lawmakers have said VW may have to buy back older models. Diess didn’t say whether VW is discussing that, but said he is optimistic an agreement with U.S. regulators will be reached soon.

Also Thursday, a German newspaper reported VW will have to buy back about 115,000 cars in the U.S. as a result of the emissions scandal.

Without citing its sources, Germany’s daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung said VW expected it would have to either refund the purchase price of a fifth of the diesel vehicles affected or offer a new car at a significant discount. VW declined to confirm the report.

Mueller was named CEO in September, days after the company’s long-time CEO, Martin Winterkorn, resigned. Winterkorn stepped down after the EPA disclosed that the automaker had secretly installed software that allowed some 2009-2015 cars to emit up to 40 times legally allowable emissions in real world driving.

VW said the issue affects up to 11 million vehicles worldwide.

Mueller is making his first trip to the U.S. since taking over at VW, visiting the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

U.S. prosecutors have launched a criminal investigation. VW has also hired Washington lawyer Ken Feinberg to create a diesel emissions claims program and faces more than 500 U.S. lawsuits.