September 2, 2019 / 1:01 AM / 21 days ago

Lawyers seek $26 million in Volkswagen U.S. fuel economy settlement

WASHINGTON, Sept 1 (Reuters) - Lawyers for owners of 98,000 Volkswagen AG U.S. vehicles that had fuel economy labels that overstated efficiency will ask a U.S. judge for $26 million in attorney's fees and costs, court documents show.

On Friday, the Environmental Protection Agency said the largest German automaker must forfeit greenhouse gas emissions credits and lower the fuel economy ratings on those vehicles after it said vehicle software overstated real-world performance.

Volkswagen said on Friday it had agreed to a $96.5 million court settlement to reimburse 98,000 consumers. People who still own the vehicles are eligible for lump-sum payments ranging from $518.40 to $2,332.80 per vehicle.

The $26 million request, which involves $23.9 million in fees and $2.1 million in expenses, is separate from the $96.5 million, court filings show, while any uncollected consumer funds will be directed to "environmental remediation efforts."

The settlement came after 15 months of negotiations.

The EPA said Volkswagen's software lowered the fuel economy rating on 98,000 vehicles by about one mile per gallon, or 3.5%.

The software was on about 1 million 2013-2017 model year Audi, Bentley, Porsche and Volkswagen vehicles, the agency said. It caused the transmission to shift gears in a manner that sometimes optimizes fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions during the EPA-prescribed emissions test, but not under normal driving conditions, the agency said.

The vehicles getting lower ratings - and eligible for compensation - include versions of the Audi A8, Bentley Continental GT, Porsche Cayenne and VW Touareg. Not all of the five model years are covered by the court settlement.

The EPA said Volkswagen understated greenhouse gas emissions by about 220,000 metric tons and it would forfeit EPA credits and credits in the federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy program.

The issue was discovered during an investigation by the EPA and California Air Resources Board into excess diesel emissions in hundreds of thousands of U.S. vehicles.

The German automaker admitted using illegal software to cheat U.S. pollution tests in 2015, triggering a global backlash against diesel vehicles that has so far cost it 30 billion euros ($33 billion) in fines, penalties and buyback costs. In May, it set aside an additional 5.5 billion euros in contingent liabilities.

Lawyers suing VW and Robert Bosch GmbH in the United States over the diesel emissions scandal previously received $352 million in fees and costs. (Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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