By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Reuters) - The California Air Resources Board on Wednesday ordered Volkswagen AG <VOWG_p.DE> to draft a plan by early January to fix more than 15,000 3.0-liter diesel engine cars and SUVs sold in the state since 2009 that emit up to nine times legally allowable emissions.
VW acknowledged on Friday some software on 2009-2016 diesel vehicles including the Porsche Cayenne, Volkswagen Touareg and Audi A6, A7, A8, Q5 and Q7 vehicles have an undeclared auxiliary emissions control that could be considered a "defeat device." VW ordered dealers to stop selling 2016 and used older models with the 3.0 liter engine in early November.
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 said Friday the issue affects 85,000 vehicles in the United States, up from an initial estimate of 10,000.
EPA said Wednesday that it is working closely with California and "will take all appropriate enforcement action."
In September, VW admitted to installing defeat devices in about 11 million 2.0 liter engine vehicles worldwide. This included 482,000 U.S. cars with software that allowed them to emit up to 40 times legally allowable levels by only activating emissions controls during laboratory testing.
EPA has not yet approved the plan for the 2.0 liter vehicles and VW is not expected to start repairing vehicles until next year. VW faces an ongoing criminal investigation in the United States and could face fines of up to $21 billion for violating the Clean Air Act.
The software at issue in the 3.0 liter 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 euros.
Even though the 3.0 liter engine was designed by Audi, all of VW's brands that used it, including Porsche and VW, are responsible, Hebert's letter said, since "they independently certified their products."
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)