Volkswagen is hoping to change its image by focusing an onslaught of battery-electric vehicles in the coming years; however, in the here and now, VW execs are still fending off allegations it’s a company filled with rogue engineers engaged illegal actions tacitly approved by upper management.
“We are not a criminal brand or group,” said Volkswagen CEO Matthias Mueller, during a media event before the Detroit Auto Show. “We haven’t been that. We have made a huge default, technical default, but there was no intention against customers or authorities.”
The automaker admitted 11 million diesel vehicles worldwide have software allowing the vehicles to hit lofty emissions and mileage targets while being tested, and then when not in test mode, adding power at the expense of the other targets.
The action, which was blamed on a few engineers, will likely result the company incurring massive fines, a U.S. Justice Department criminal investigation, sweeping recalls and hundreds of lawsuits for the nearly 600,000 vehicles in the U.S. with the software.
(VW sales drop below 10 million worldwide in wake of diesel scandal. For more, Click Here.)
Matthias, while apologetic, sidestepped the question of whether or not the company lied.
“Whether we did lie or not – that is the issue of the investigation,” he said.
The automaker, which is showing several electric vehicles during this week’s Detroit Auto Show, is also preparing to present the company’s plans to fix the problem in its U.S. vehicles to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy later this week.
Volkswagen has largely resolved the issue in Europe; however, the fix in the U.S. will be more difficult because of the more rigorous emissions standards in this country. The CEO clearly understands the company faces an uphill battle with government officials as well as the general public. Volkswagen’s U.S. sales have declined in each of the last two months.
(For more on the Justice Dept. lawsuit, Click Here.)
“Our most important task in 2016 is to regain trust,” he said.
Mueller, who meets with the EPA Wednesday, has provided technical data to the agency, as well as the California Air Resources Board, is optimistic about coming to an agreement about resolving the problem.
“Concepts for solutions would be presented as soon as these are fully approved by the authorities,” VW said in a statement, calling its interactions with the EPA “constructive dialogue” despite reported tension.
The cars involved include Jetta, Golf and other diesel models dating back to the 2009 model year. Some Audi and Porsche modes are also part of the problem. The vehicles emit nitrogen oxide at up to 40 times allowable levels under federal environmental standards. The cars include Jetta, Golf and other popular models dating to the 2009 model year.
(VW may buy back more than 100,000 cars in wake of diesel emissions scandal. Click Here for more.)
During the Detroit event, Mueller said VW is still sorting out the details on a compensation plan for diesel vehicle owners through a fund to be administered Kenneth Feinberg, who also managed the General Motors ignition-switch victim fund.