VW head says some in company allowed “breaches of rules”

Hans Dieter Poetsch, chair of Volkswagen, told reporters today that the automaker would move aggressively to restore public confidence in its products in the wake of the Dieselgate scandal.

Volkswagen’s chair Hans Dieter Poetsch, acknowledging that Dieselgate has cost the automaker, vowed today to work aggressively to win back customer trust. He admitted that there was an attitude in parts of the carmaker that tolerated rule-breaking and pledged that VW would find those responsible for the emissions-rigging scandal. So far, he indicated, nine executives and engineers have been suspended as a result of twin, ongoing probes.

Volkswagen hired the legal firm of Jones-Day to conduct an independent investigation of the company. He indicated that the probe was moving along and promised the findings would be released before the automaker’s annual meeting in April. The company is conducting its exhaustive internal probe and expects results soon. Meantime, the automaker asked 450 experts to look at its internal procedures. The experts worked with the Jones-Day and internal examinations. Preliminary findings show reporting and monitoring deficiencies, Automotive News said this morning. “The main problem there was that responsibilities were not sufficiently clear,” he said. VW has agreed to improve oversight of its software engineering to avoid potential future emissions cheating.

Poetsch also pledged that the automaker would be relentless in finding those who were responsible for the Dieselgate scandal that has rocked the automaker, causing its value to plummet and costing it credibility in the eyes of millions so that VW could restore customer trust. In a statement released today, the VW chair said the automaker will be “relentless in seeking to establish who was responsible … nothing will be swept under the carpet.”

Poetsch said the scandal was caused because the team designing the EA 189 engine family found they could not meet U.S. emissions standards on time and under budget. He acknowledged that the whole scamware installation scandal was the result of a “whole series of mistakes.” That the scandal happened at all was the result of:

  • Attitude: In some areas of the automaker there was an attitude that “tolerated breaches of the rules.”
  • Individual failures
  • Process flaws

He indicated that only a small group of persons was responsible for the Dieselgate cheating scandal. During the cheating scandal, the scamware was installed in 11 million vehicles worldwide across the following brands:

  • Volkswagen
  • Audi
  • Skoda
  • Seat

In other comments, the Volkswagen chair said that:

  • The automaker will retain its 12 brands.
  • 100 whistleblowers came forward with no leads developed.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and VW can find some accommodation regarding the scandal.
  • Jobs would be protected.
  • Future emissions testing would be independently evaluated.
  • Costs relating to Dieselgate would be 6.7 billion euros, excluding fines, damages, and other related issues.
  • A backlash is occurring among potential customers with sluggish sales. Sales slumped 25 percent last month.
  • If buybacks are needed in the U.S., they could total $9.4 billion

There was one bright spot in all of the gloomy news. An audit of the company’s reported carbon dioxide emissions problem shows that it is not widespread. At first, the automaker said it affected 800,000 vehicles. However, the audit shows that the CO2 problem affects only about 36,000 vehicles in Europe. The CO2 emissions issue is a European problem because car owners there are taxed on their CO2 emissions.