The 16-month saga could still have further to run, with U.S. authorities investigating who was individually responsible for the cheating and VW facing probes and lawsuits in Europe and elsewhere.
"This is a partial victory, but VW is by no means out of the woods yet," said Ingo Speich, a fund manager at Union Investment which holds about 0.6 percent of VW preference shares. "There are still considerable litigation risks."
"Facts need to be revealed now and, if necessary, further steps need to be taken regarding individuals to regain the trust of capital markets," Speich said.
Most analysts had expected the U.S. settlement, which VW has raced to conclude before the Obama administration bows out on Jan. 20, to cost the carmaker around 3 billion euros.
VW admitted in September 2015 to installing secret software in hundreds of thousands of U.S. diesel cars to cheat exhaust emissions tests and make them appear cleaner than they were on the road, and that as many as 11 million vehicles could have similar software installed worldwide.
Erik Bomans, a managing partner at Deminor which is working with some investors on a claim against VW, said those responsible for the scandal had to be brought to justice.
"What we hope is that there has not been a trade-off in the discussions between Volkswagen and the U.S. Department of Justice, a trade-off that could be 'we as a company plead guilty and we are willing to pay a big fine, but in exchange for that, you, Department of Justice, you allow us ... not to mention anything about the personal involvement of certain key, senior managers of the company'," he said.
Greg Archer, director of clean vehicles at green campaigners Transport and Environment, said VW's admission of criminal misconduct in the U.S. was unlikely to have implications for lawsuits in Europe, where a loophole in the regulations has effectively allowed automakers to routinely exceed official emissions limits.
The European Commission in December began legal action against Germany, Britain and five other EU member states for failing to police emissions test cheating.
"They are ineffective and they are in urgent need of reform," Archer said of the national regulators responsible for approving new vehicles in the EU.
Reuters contributed to this report.