Monday, December 14, 2015

Volkswagen: Engineers Couldn't Meet U.S. Emissions Laws

Dayton Daily News (Ohio)
December 10, 2015

Copyright 2015 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.

Volkswagen investigators have determined that engineers cheated U.S. emissions tests in part because they could not figure out how to meet the standards, the company said today.

Volkswagen Group Chairman Hans-Dieter Potsch told reporters that engineers erred by developing manipulative software to fool regulators because they "quite simply could not find a way to meet the tougher" limits for nitrogen oxide pollutants in the U.S.

"We are not talking about a one-off mistake, but a whole chain of mistakes," he said at a press conference in Germany that was live-streamed online and translated into English.

Potsch said engineers should have persevered until they found a solution. He said the company has suspended nine managers who were "possibly involved in the manipulations" and the company is "relentlessly searching for those responsible for what happened."

He pledged to assign emissions certification to independent auditors in the future.

The company will also form a new committee to authorize new emissions software to avoid future violations. Volkswagen has admitted to fitting up to 11 million diesel vehicles worldwide with software that cheated tests for NOx emissions, allowing the harmful pollutants to be emitted at rates of up to 40 times Environmental Protection Agency standards.

Volkswagen CEO Matthias Mueller said the company is still pursuing a fix for the U.S. vehicles involved in the crisis - nearly 600,000 diesel cars and crossovers, such as certain versions of the Passat, Beetle, Audi A6 and Audi Q5 - due to the complexity involved.

In Europe, where the fix is not as complicated because nitrogen-oxide emissions regulations are less strict, recalls will begin in January.

The episode is expected to cost the company tens of billions of dollars, but Mueller said Volkswagen stock gains in recent weeks show investors have confidence in the automaker.

"Obviously, people believe that we have the situation under control," he said.

Industry analysts say the company has sustained serious damage to its brand—particularly in the United States, where sales fell 25% in November—although sales in Europe have been more resilient.

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