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  • Congress Fries Volkswagen U.S. CEO, Customers Still Lack Answers

    Volkswagen Group of America CEO Michael Horn testified Thursday to Congress over allegations that Volkswagen AG deliberately cheated emission standards. He maintained the innocence of the American side of the company, and promised full cooperation as it tries to make the situation right.

    The Energy and Commerce Committee ripped into Mr. Horn in questioning, expressing concern over damages to consumers and dealers across the country, as well as excess pollution from affected vehicles. The committee also grilled him on reports he may have known about the defeat devices in the spring of 2014.

    Horn apologized for violating the public trust, and stated that their emission cheat was “fundamentally contradictory” to company principles. He acknowledged that to the best of his knowledge, the defeat devices were installed deliberately to skirt tests, because company technology could not keep up with U.S. and European emission standards.

    Horn admitted to being advised about emission problems in the spring of 2014, but said he was not informed about deliberate cheating or the defeat devices until early September of this year, when the company met with the Environmental Protection Agency.

    Horn said it was not clear yet whom will be held accountable as the internal investigation is still ongoing, but promised that the guilty parties will be found. Horn could also not comment on specific technological fixes to their cars or a timetable for any fix, except that they are hopeful to have a solution by January 2016.

    When asked about current diesel VWs on the road, and what owners of the cars are supposed to do, Horn said the EPA concluded, “these cars are legal and safe to drive.” The Wall Street Journal reports that Volkswagen has withdrawn its application to U.S. regulators to certify their 2016 diesel model vehicles, which Mr. Horn pointed out in his testimony as an example VW is taking the situation very seriously.

    Democratic Rep. Kathy Castor asked Horn whether he felt, “personally cheated,” by the scandal, due to his 25 years’ service to Volkswagen, to which he replied, “Yes.”

    Going forward Mr. Horn said that his first priority is helping American Volkswagen dealers financially so that they can stay profitable. He stressed that the defeat device was not a company decision, and that software development takes place in Germany, “outside my jurisdiction.”

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