A cutaway view of the Audi three-litre V6 TDI engine.

Washington DC - The California Air Resources Board has ordered Volkswagen to draft a plan by early January to fix more than 15 000 three-litre V6 turbodiesel cars and SUVs sold in the state since 2009 that emit up to nine times legally allowable emissions.

Volkswagen admitted on 20 November that some software on 2009-2016 diesel vehicles including the Porsche Cayenne, Volkswagen Touareg and Audi A6, A7, A8, Q5 and Q7 has an undeclared auxiliary emissions control that could be considered a “defeat device”. The company ordered dealers to stop selling 2016 and used older models with the 3.0 TDI engine early in November.

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VW must “take appropriate corrective action to remedy the nonconformity and return these vehicles to claimed certification configurations which meet required standards,” said the letter from CARB's chief of emissions compliance, Annette Hebert, posted on the agency's website. The plan must be filed within 45 days.

The Environmental Protection Agency and California say the issue affects 85 000 vehicles in the United States, up from an initial estimate of 10 000.

The EPA said on Wednesday it was working closely with California and “will take all appropriate enforcement action”.

In September VW admitted to installing defeat devices in about 11 million two-litre turbodiesel vehicles worldwide - incuding 482 000 cars in the United States - with software that allowed them to emit up to 40 times the legally allowable levels by only activating emissions controls during laboratory testing.

CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION

The EPA has not yet approved the plan for the two-litre vehicles and VW is not expected to start repairing vehicles until January 2016. VW faces an ongoing criminal investigation in the United States and could face fines of up to $21billion (R297 billion) for violating the Clean Air Act.

The software at issue in the three-litre vehicles is significantly different than the software in the vehicles with smaller engines. Audi said the software that could be considered a “defeat device” is for “temperature conditioning of the exhaust gas cleaning system.”

Audi said it expects to address the problem with a software fix and estimated it would cost in the “mid double digit millions of euros,” which could mean €50 million (R750 million).

Hebert's letter said that, even though the three-litre V6 turbodiesel was designed by Audi, all of Volkswagen’s brands that used it, including Porsche and VW, were responsible, since “they independently certified their products”.

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