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VW's diesel fix will not affect fuel economy, may take two years to complete

In this Sept. 30, 2015, photo, John Swanton, spokesman with the California Air Resources Board explains how a 2013 Volkswagen Passat with a diesel engine is evaluated at the emissions test lab in El Monte, Calif. Three years after Volkswagen opened a pollution testing center in Oxnard, Calif., VW admitted that it manipulated emissions results in 482,000 U.S. diesel vehicles to make them appear to run cleaner, raising questions around Volkswagens only test center in North America. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

In this Sept. 30, 2015, photo, John Swanton, spokesman with the California Air Resources Board explains how a 2013 Volkswagen Passat with a diesel engine is evaluated at the emissions test lab in El Monte, Calif. Three years after Volkswagen opened a pollution testing center in Oxnard, Calif., VW admitted that it manipulated emissions results in 482,000 U.S. diesel vehicles to make them appear to run cleaner, raising questions around Volkswagens only test center in North America. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

Testifying before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Thursday, Volkswagen of America CEO Michael Horn said that several remedies are in the works to bring nearly a half-million of the company’s diesel cars on the road in the United States in compliance with emissions standards without dramatically affecting their performance.

The cars were found to have emissions testing defeat devices installed that allowed them to pass EPA lab tests, while emitting up to 40 times the allowable level of nitrogen oxide emissions in real world driving.

Horn says the remedies are still in development, but that he has been informed that 2015 model year cars should require only new software, while 2009-2014 model year vehicles will need to undergo mechanical upgrades. 2016 models, which are on dealer lots but do not yet have the EPA certification that would allow them to be sold, will also get a software update.

Volkswagen has no intention to buy back the cars outright, Horn said.

The older cars will have a urea exhaust injection system and likely a redesigned catalytic converter installed to bring their nitrogen oxide emissions in compliance. Horn said that this could require five to 10 hours of labor for each vehicle.

However, while many of the affected consumers have voiced concerned that changes made to the cars would affect their fuel efficiency or power, Horn assured the committee that the updated cars will deliver the same miles per gallon that they were originally advertised with, and that any power reduction would only result in a loss of 1 or 2 miles of top speed. The company will consider compensating owners monetarily for any changes to their car's performance.

Horn said that work on the newest cars should begin within a few months, but that the fix for the the 2009-2014 models won't be ready until the middle of 2016. He estimates that it will take one to two years to update all of the cars on the road today.