Michael Horn, who survived as head of the US chief of Volkswagen, took the offensive today admitted that the automaker “betrayed” its “customers, our employees, our dealers and the public” in the ongoing Dieselgate emissions scandal. He indicated the automaker is working closely with US regulators to find a solution to the software problem that landed the carmaker in hot water. Horn received unanimous support from VW’s American dealer body. He retained his post Friday, the same day other management changes were announced at the troubled automaker, rocked by its worst scandal in 78 years.
Horn’s comments were part of a Volkswagen counteroffensive aimed at rebuilding the automaker’s credibility and at boosting confidence in the brand in the wake of the ongoing Dieselgate scandal. Taking point in the public relations campaign, he also emphasized that its products were safe. He also admitted that the emissions cheating scandal likely involved up to 11 million Volkswagen diesel vehicles worldwide. (One probe has found that as many as 2.8 million diesel cars in Germany were impacted by the crisis.)
The automaker, as part of its multi-pronged public relations campaign, has opened a website specific relating to the crisis. The new site is full of information relating to the crisis including an extensive set of frequently asked questions. Volkswagen, according to Automotive News’ “First Edition, today, has established a toll-free number to answer questions and provide information.
In other developments, the automaker:
Has put diesel advertising on hold for two weeks.
Had already pulled diesel advertising for VW, Audi and Porsche diesels as soon as the crisis erupted.
May have received a warning shot from Robert Bosch, a major German parts supplier, as early as 2007 telling VW that it was illegal to use engine management software. Bosch is reported to have repeated the warning in 2011.
May be been told by a member of its engineering staff in 2011 that using engine management software was illegal.
Has suspended the VW, Audi, Porsche development chief.
Volkswagen is still trying to regain its balance following the EPA recall that began Dieselgate a little more than a week ago. At that time, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ordered the automaker to recall 482,000 diesel automobiles in the United States for major emissions issues. The agency noted that some models of the automaker’s diesel cars failed oxides of nitrogen by as much as 40 times. Acting on information received from independent researchers from West Virginia University, that had found “defeat device” software that turned on and off emissions equipment on the automaker’s popular TDI models. When the software was active, the cars easily passed emissions testing; when the tests were finished the emissions software reverted to its “normal” mode and emissions levels jumped into the failure zone.
So far, Dieselgate has cost VW about 30 percent of its stock valuation. Top executives, including former CEO Martin Winterkorn, have either lost their positions or have been reshuffled. And, the scandal has sparked major actions by 28 state attorneys general; the Justice Department, the EPA, the California Air Resources Board and several countries including France, Germany and South Korea.