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U.S. regulators still reviewing Fiat Chrysler diesel vehicle fix - lawyer

Reuters  |  WASHINGTON 

By David Shepardson

(Reuters) - A U.S. Justice Department lawyer said at a hearing on Wednesday it could take "weeks or months" before regulators decide whether to approve a software fix for Automobiles NV diesel vehicles.

In May, the Justice Department sued Chrysler, accusing the Italian-American automaker of illegally using software to bypass emission controls in 104,000 diesel vehicles sold since 2014.

lawyer Robert Giuffra said the company is optimistic regulators will approve the company's proposed software update as part of certifying 2017 diesel models to allow them to go on sale and then use that software to update the 104,000 vehicles on the road.

Leigh Rende, a Justice Department lawyer, said at a San Francisco federal hearing "there is uncertainty" about whether the fix will be approved. "It could be weeks or months away," Rende said of a decision. "This is really a technical decision."

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and California Air Resources Board accused in January of using undisclosed software to allow excess diesel in 104,000 U.S. 2014-2016 Jeep Grand Cherokees and Dodge Ram 1500 trucks in a notice of violation in January.

has said it does not believe the software update would impact performance or fuel efficiency and has held six meetings and calls with regulators in the last three weeks. Company shares trading in New York fell 1 percent to $10.89 on Wednesday.

The January notice was the result of a probe that arose out of regulators' investigation of rival Volkswagen AG's excess

faces more than 20 lawsuits from dealers and owners over the alleged excess

U.S. District Judge Edward Chen is also overseeing suits filed against Robert Bosch GmbH [ROBG.UL] stemming from its role in developing the diesel engines.

At Wednesday's hearing, lawyers representing owners said they plan to review millions of pages of documents and urged a speedy trial date if no settlement is reached.

reported in May that the Justice Department and the EPA have obtained internal emails and other documents written in Italian that look at engine development and issues that raise significant questions.

In total, VW has agreed to spend more than $25 billion in the United States to address claims from owners, environmental regulators, states and dealers and offered to buy back about 500,000 polluting U.S. vehicles.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Marguerita Choy)

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