Volkswagen of America CEO Horn: We Need to ‘Bloody Learn’ to Get Act Together

#hashtags: #Commerce

Volkswagen of America CEO Michael Horn testified to a congressional committee Thursday that he wasn’t aware until last month of the illegal “defeat device” installed on nearly 500,000 cars in the U.S. — approximately 11 million worldwide — and that the car company could take several years to fix its cars. Horn testified in front of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce’s subcommittee for oversight and investigations for more than two hours. “I would like to offer a sincere apology for Volkswagen’s use of a software program that served to defeat the regular emissions testing regime,” Horn said in a prepared response before answering questions from representatives. Questions from the members of the subcommittee centered on when Horn was made aware of the illegal devices that cheated their way through Environmental Protection Agency emissions tests. Horn said that he was told of the illegal software code — which could detect when the cars were being tested for emissions and temporarily reduce performance to meet emissions standards in testing-mode only — in September 2015, when the EPA notified the automaker of its non-compliance. He said he was unaware of the defeat device in spring 2014, when researchers at West Virginia University told the automaker its cars polluted up to 40 times the legal limit. “I had no reason to believe there was a defeat device,” Horn said. Horn said cars equipped with the illegally polluting diesel engines were recalled in December 2014, but those cars were not brought into compliance with legal standards. Questions from committee members focused heavily on dealer compensation for cars that Volkswagen refused to sell beginning last month. Horn said the company sent dealers an undisclosed amount of money Oct. 1 to offset losses and to spend for company satisfaction. Horn added few key details on how the automaker would fix its cars. For Generation 3 cars — model year 2015-2016 cars — a simple software fix would start at the beginning of next year. For Generation 2 cars — Volkswagen Passats starting in 2012 fitted with urea injectors — a fix would be proposed by the “middle of next year,” he said. For Generation 1 cars — Jettas, Golfs and Beetles — which comprise about 350,000 of the 482,000 cars in America, Horn didn’t give a timeline for those significant fixes. “We know we can fix these vehicles to achieve emissions standards,” Horn said. Horn said he was disappointed in the automaker in its deception and said that he believed the cheating was limited to a few engineers who knowingly broke the law. Representatives said that was hard to believe. “Either your entire organization is incompetent … or they are complicit at the highest levels in a massive cover up,” said Rep. Chris Collins, a Republican from New York. “I worked 25 years for this company … not cheating was always a given for this company, for me,” Horn said. “I hope these (internal) investigations will discover what drove these people … into these decisions and these actions.”