VW brand boss sees U.S. emission deal within months: paper

BERLIN (Reuters) - Volkswagen's VOWG_p.DE brand chief Herbert Diess said it will take months rather than weeks to reach an agreement with U.S. regulators on an emissions fix for 600,000 diesel cars, a newspaper reported on Saturday.

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U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer last month turned up the heat on Volkswagen (VW) by setting a March 24 deadline to the carmaker to state whether it has found a fix that is acceptable to U.S. regulators.

VW lawyer Robert Giuffra told Breyer at the Feb. 25 hearing that the carmaker was making progress in trying to reach a settlement with the Justice Department, the Environmental Protection Agency and California Resources Board.

But Diess, in an interview with German regional newspaper Wolfsburger Allgemeine Zeitung published on Saturday, said it may take months rather than weeks for to reach a settlement.

“I believe we have good chances to achieve an agreement with the authorities in the United States in the next months,” the executive said.

Europe’s largest automaker has said previously it was considering buying back cars as part of a settlement, a move that could cost it billions.

Separately, Diess reinforced calls for further cost cuts at VW’s biggest division by sales and revenue, saying the brand must improve profitability to be able to afford new technologies and compete with rivals in the digital age.

“The Volkswagen brand still has some work to do to become more profitable in coming years,” he said. “We will not get a second chance.”

Diess wants to cede more powers to regional operations and streamline vehicle development as part of a 12-point plan to increase cost savings and ready the brand for the arrival of electric and autonomous mobility.

He is expected to outline his plans before thousands of workers at a staff gathering at VW’s base in Wolfsburg on Tuesday, alongside Chief Executive Matthias Mueller, labor boss Bernd Osterloh and Lower Saxony premier Stephan Weil.

Reporting by Andreas Cremer; Editing by Alexander Smith