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VW, seeking approval on emissions fix, replaces top U.S. lawyer

WASHINGTON — Volkswagen AG replaced the head of its U.S. legal department with an outside lawyer as it seeks approval to fix nearly 600,000 vehicles that had software allowing them to cheat on emission levels, the company said Thursday.

David Detweiler, an attorney with law firm Clifford Chance, has been named executive vice president and general counsel at Volkswagen of America Group.

Effective Feb. 1, Detweiler, who has worked as an adviser to VW on such matters as the issuance of corporate bonds last year, replaced David Geanacopoulos, who has held that role as well as head of public affairs.

Geanacopoulos will remain at VW, focusing on government relations with a new title as senior executive vice president for public affairs and public policy.

VW also said it is opening an office soon in downtown Washington, as it has in other world capitals.

“The diesel emissions crisis has, understandably, broken the trust of regulators, elected officials, and the public,” said Thomas Steg, head of group government Relations at Volkswagen AG. “Now, more than ever, the company must communicate with transparency and responsiveness to its stakeholders.”

VW has been working to bolster ties with lawmakers and others in Washington in the face of the diesel emissions scandal that brought harsh criticism from Congress at a hearing in October.

Earlier this week, VW submitted a fix plan to the California Air Resources Board covering 80,000 Audi, Porsche and VW SUVs and larger cars.

VW has not won approval to fix any of the vehicles since it acknowledged in September using software that allowed vehicles to emit up to 40 times legally allowable pollution.

Last month, Audi of America said it was naming Brad Stertz as the new director of Audi government affairs, and named Tom Baloga as senior director of Audi government affairs and head of a new Sacramento office.

Last month Volkswagen Chief Executive Officer Matthias Mueller met with a number of lawmakers in Washington, including Representative Fred Upton, a Michigan Republican, and Senators Richard Blumenthal and Edward Markey, two Democrats critical of the German automaker.

Mueller also met with EPA chief Gina McCarthy and U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker.

Pritzker asked Mueller about VW’s commitment to expanding its Chattanooga, Tenn., plant, and he said VW was moving ahead with an expansion, sources said.

Last month, VW named Hinrich J. Woebcken as head of the North American region, effective April 1.

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