Tough questions awaited Volkswagen’s top U.S. executive at a congressional hearing Thursday as the emissions-rigging scandal involving the world’s largest automaker worsened.
Volkswagen of America CEO Michael Horn testified before a House subcommittee investigating the company’s use of on-board computer software designed to cheat on government emissions tests in nearly 500,000 of its four-cylinder “clean diesel” cars, starting with the 2009 model year.
According to Volkswagen of America CEO Michael Horn’s prepared remarks, Volkswagen intends to withdraw applications seeking U.S. emissions certifications for its 2016 model Jettas, Golfs, Passats and Beetles with diesel engines. That raises questions about whether a “defeat device” similar to that in earlier models is also in the new cars.
Volkswagen taking measures to revive the brand
Starting in January, German automaker Volkswagen will start recalling millions of diesel cars fitted with emissions cheating software.
Company CEO Matthias Mueller wanted all vehicles fixed within 12 months. CCTV’s Guy Henderson reports from Berlin.
Volkswagen taking measures to revive the brandStarting in January, German automaker Volkswagen will start recalling millions of diesel cars fitted with emissions cheating software. Company CEO Matthias Mueller wanted all vehicles fixed within 12 months. CCTV's Guy Henderson reports from Berlin.
VW US CEO apologizes at congressional hearing
Volkswagen’s emission scandal arrived before a U.S. congressional committee where lawmakers grilled the automaker’s top U.S. executive. CCTV’s Jim Spellman reports.
VW US CEO apologizes at congressional hearingVolkswagen's emission scandal arrived before a U.S. congressional committee where lawmakers grilled the automaker's top U.S. executive. CCTV's Jim Spellman reports.
Tyson Slocum on Volkswagen scandal
For more on the Volkswagen scandal, CCTV America joined by Tyson Slocum.
He’s Director of the Public Citizen Energy Program.
Tyson Slocum on Volkswagen scandalFor more on the Volkswagen scandal, CCTV America joined by Tyson Slocum He's Director of the Public Citizen Energy Program.
The crisis’ real world damage
As a result of this emissions crisis, VW (Volkswagen) will leave thousands of diesel vehicles stranded at U.S. ports, giving dealers no new diesel-powered vehicles to sell.
It wasn’t immediately clear when VW would re-file its application, but Horn’s testimony said the company was working with regulators to get certification.
The chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Republican Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan, said “the American public deserves answers. VW needs to come clean.”
The search for a culprit within Volkswagen
Separately, German prosecutors searched VW headquarters in Wolfsburg and other locations Thursday seeking material that would help clarify who was responsible for the cheating. The searches were intended to “secure documents and data storage devices” that could identify those involved in the alleged manipulation and explain how it was carried out, prosecutors said in a statement.
It was unclear what the device found in some VW models does. Liz Purchia, a spokeswoman for the Environmental Protection Agency, said VW recently gave the agency information on an “auxiliary emissions control device.” The EPA and California Air Resources Board are investigating “the nature and purpose” of the device, she said.
The company said such devices can sense engine performance, road speed “and any other parameter for activating, modulating, delaying or deactivating” emissions controls.
The lack of certification is bad news for American VW dealers, who were hoping to put the new models on sale soon. For some dealerships, the diesel models accounted for about one-third of sales.
Tom Backer, general manager of Lash Volkswagen in White Plains, New York, said his dealership already had lost three deals with potential buyers because he could not get the new cars. “It’s definitely a stain on the brand’s image,” he said.
Horn, a 51-year-old German and veteran VW manager who took the reins of the brand’s American subsidiary last year, intended to tell lawmakers that he learned about the cheating software “over the past several weeks,” VW spokeswoman Jeannine Ginivan said.
“I did not think that something like this was possible at the Volkswagen Group,” Horn said in his prepared remarks. “We have broken the trust of our customers, dealerships, and employees, as well as the public and regulators.”
Also scheduled to testify were EPA officials who oversee emissions testing and compliance with clean air rules.
How the crisis began
VW first acknowledged the deception to U.S. regulators on Sept. 3. That was more than a year after researchers at West Virginia University published a study showing the real-world emissions of the company’s Jetta and Passat models were far higher than allowed.
VW was able to fool the EPA because the agency only tested the cars on treadmill-like devices called dynamometers and did not use portable test equipment on real roads. The software in the cars’ engine-control computers determined when dynamometer tests were under way. It then turned on pollution controls that reduced the output of nitrogen oxides that contribute to smog and other pollution, the EPA has said.
Only when the EPA and California regulators refused to approve VW’s 2016 diesel models for sale did the company admit earlier what it had done.
Though VW and U.S. regulators have not yet announced a fix for illegal emissions under a nationwide recall, Horn was prepared to the company was “determined to make things right.”
Put together with information from the Associated Press and CCTV original reporting