Volkswagen’s U.S. boss blames ‘individuals’ for cheating

BERLIN: Volkswagen’s rigging of diesel emissions tests was not a company decision but the result of actions by a small number of engineers, its top U.S. executive said on Thursday.”To my understanding, this was not a corporate decision; this was something individuals did,” Michael Horn, President and CEO of Volkswagen Group of America, told a panel of U.S. lawmakers investigating the German carmaker’s wrongdoing.”I agree it’s very hard to believe, and I personally find it hard to believe,” he added.Almost three weeks after it confessed publicly to cheating U.S. emissions tests, Europe’s largest carmaker is under pressure to identify those responsible, fix affected vehicles and clarify exactly how and where the cheating happened.The biggest business crisis in Volkswagen’s 78-year history has wiped more than a third off its share price, forced out its long-time chief executive, prompted investigations across the world and rocked both the car industry and German establishment.

Earlier on Thursday, German prosecutors raided Volkswagen’s headquarters and other offices as part of their investigation into whether the firm also cheated tests in Europe.Volkswagen said it was supporting the investigation and had handed over a “comprehensive” range of documents.Horn told the House of Representatives Oversight and Investigations panel that he knew in the spring of 2014 the company might be breaking U.S. emissions rules, because a study by West Virginia University had shown some of its diesel vehicles were emitting toxic emissions on the road far higher than those permitted by U.S. regulations.However, he added he did not find out that so-called “defeat device” software was used to manipulate emissions test results until “around Sept. 3″, when the company admitted its cheating to U.S. regulators.

“This was a couple of software engineers who put this in for whatever reason,” Horn said, speaking under oath. He did not give further details, adding investigations were ongoing.Volkswagen has come under fire on both sides of the Atlantic for its handling of the crisis, with lawmakers, investors and customers saying it has been too slow to release information.Analysts are still unsure how widespread the cheating was.Germany’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper reported on Thursday that Volkswagen’s manipulation software was switched on in Europe, citing a company spokesman.


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