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VW gets ready to move on comeback plan in U.S.: sales chief

A U.S. flag flutters in the wind above a Volkswagen dealership in Carlsbad, California, U.S. May 2, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake

By Andreas Cremer and Jan Schwartz

WOLFSBURG, Germany (Reuters) - Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) hopes to reach a final settlement with the U.S. authorities over the diesel emissions scandal next month so that it can get moving on a recovery plan which will see the launch of several new crossover and electric vehicles, its sales chief said on Thursday.

VW aims to expand its electric-vehicle offerings in the United States to meet a growing demand for green cars and help restore its image, VW brand sales chief Juergen Stackmann said in an interview published on Thursday.

"A final agreement with U.S. authorities would certainly provide relief and, at the same time, give the go-ahead to look and plan ahead", Stackmann said.

VW reached an outline agreement with the U.S. authorities last month to buy back or fix about a half million polluting diesel cars and set up environmental and consumer compensation funds but a final deal must be reached by June 21.

Analysts have said Europe's biggest automaker faces a doubly difficult problem in trying to make headway in the United States as even before the scandal it was seen as notoriously slow to refresh models and catch up with new market trends.

The VW brand's current U.S. product lineup is heavy on compact cars and mid-size sedans at a time when consumers favor sport-utility vehicles (SUVs) in various sizes.

VW will launch a new mid-sized SUV and a re-designed Tiguan crossover next year, assuming that recalls and buybacks of tainted diesel models have won back the trust of the market, Stackmann said.

"We are not working on a defensive strategy for the United States but what we want to achieve in North America is not only to gain a foothold but to grow again," the executive said.

Following the SUV campaign which next year will also feature an even bigger next-generation version of the flagship Touareg model, VW is planning an all-new family of electric cars based on its new MEB modular production platform.

Experts believe a rush of new products combined with a brand image campaign will drive VW's recovery in the United States.

After falling 11 percent to 310,227 cars this year VW-branded car sales in the world's largest market may bounce back to 404,958 cars in 2017 and rising to 490,906 in 2022, according to market research firm IHS Automotive.

"Of course, 'Dieselgate' and the long search for technical fixes have left their mark on VW in the U.S. but Americans will leave that behind very quickly," said London-based Evercore ISI analyst Arndt Ellinghorst who recommends buying the stock.

However, global sales of the VW brand posted another decline in April, Stackmann said, without elaborating.

Sales data to be released on Friday showed a small degree of progress in North America, further growth in China and a stable picture in Europe, he said.

(Editing by Greg Mahlich)