Head of VW in US will tell Congress he knew of emissions rigging in early 2014

Michael Horn, president and CEO of Volkswagen (VW) Group of America, will confirm he knew of the company’s emission rigging issues as early as spring 2014, according to a statement released ahead of a congressional inquiry.

In prepared remarks before what looks set to be an intense public hearing on Thursday, Horn will apologize once again for VW’s use of software to “defeat the regular emissions testing regime”.

“In the spring of 2014 … I was told that there was a possible emissions non-compliance that could be remedied,” he will tell the House committee on energy and commerce before questioning begins.

“I was informed that EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] regulations included various penalties for non-compliance with the emissions standards and that the agencies can conduct engineering tests which could include ‘defeat device’ testing or analysis. I was also informed that the company engineers would work with the agencies to resolve the issue.”

Europe’s largest carmaker is under pressure to identify those responsible for the scandal and to say how vehicles with illegal software will be fixed.

The company’s new chairman, Hans Dieter Pötsch, told a news conference in Wolfsburg: “Nobody is served by speculation or vague, preliminary progress reports.

“Therefore it will take some time until we have factual and reliable results and can provide you with comprehensive information.”

VW use of emission-rigging software came to light on 18 September when the EPA ordered the company to recall almost 500,000 US cars fitted with the software. According to the EPA, since 2008 the software allowed the cars to cheat emissions tests while producing up to 40 times more pollution than allowed.

The scandal was first discovered in spring 2014 by John German, an automotive engineer who checked the car’s emissions on real roads instead of in the lab. German told the Guardian that he provided VW with a copy of his findings.

“VW had a chance to fix the problem, and they continued to try and cheat and do what they had done,” German said.

While Thursday’s hearing will mainly focus on VW, the congressional investigation could eventually look at other carmakers as well to determine whether they have also used similar software.

“The first thing is to look at the VW issue, in and of itself. Second is to ask the same question of other carmakers and see if there is any such activity taking place,” Tennessee congresswoman Marsha Blackburn, who is vice-chairman of the committee, told Reuters.

Horn is not the only one, who will be in the hot seat during Thursday’s hearing. The EPA is also being taken to task to determine why the agency failed to detect the use of such software earlier.

“VW manufactured and installed software in the electronic control module of these vehicles that sensed when the vehicle was being tested for compliance with EPA emissions standards,” Christopher Grundler, director of the EPA’s office of transportation and air quality, will testify on Thursday according to his prepared remarks. “Put simply, these cars contain software that turns off or significantly reduces the effectiveness of emissions controls when driving normally, and turns them on when the car is undergoing an emissions test.”

Grundler will also inform the committee that on 25 September the EPA contacted all auto manufacturers to inform them that the agency is “stepping up our testing activities in response to VW’s alleged violations”.

You can return to the main Market News page, or press the Back button on your browser.