WASHINGTON D.C.: The US head of Volkswagen prepared to apologize to Congress on Thursday over the “deeply troubling” pollution scandal as it emerged he knew of a potential problem with vehicle emissions as early as spring 2014.
In testimony released ahead of his hearing with the House energy committee, Michael Horn offered a “sincere apology” for Volkswagen’s use of a software program “that served to defeat the regular emissions testing regime.”
He also admitted he was made aware of “a possible emissions non-compliance” in early 2014 after researchers at the University of West Virginia found that the cars affected released up to 40 times as much nitrogen oxide than was legally permissible.
Horn said he was also told by his staff at that time that US authorities could conduct tests for so-called “defeat devices,” which release lower levels of emissions under testing.
The US boss said that later that year he was informed technical teams had a plan to bring the vehicles into compliance, and that they were working with the authorities on the process.
He said Volkswagen finally admitted to US regulators in September that hidden software installed in certain diesel vehicles “could recognize whether a vehicle was being operated in a test laboratory or on the road,” emitting higher levels of pollution outside the lab.
The company had “broken the trust of our customers, dealerships, and employees, as well as the public and regulators,” he said according to the prepared testimony, promising those responsible would be held accountable.
At home in Germany, Volkswagen on Wednesday submitted to authorities its plans on fixing the affected vehicles, saying it would take until the end of next year for the issue to be resolved.
“If all goes as expected, we can start the repairs in January. By end 2016, all the cars should be in order,” VW chief Matthias Mueller told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung daily.