VW CEO: U.S. remains ‘core market’ despite scandal

Michael Martinez
The Detroit News

Volkswagen AG CEO Matthias Muller on Sunday night apologized for the German automaker’s emissions cheating scandal and said the United States remains a “core market” for the company.

Muller, speaking for the first time to U.S. media since the scandal broke on the eve of the Detroit auto show, said the automaker must win back consumer trust in 2016.

“We know we deeply disappointed our customers, the responsible government bodies, and the general public here in the U.S,” Muller said. “I apologize for what went wrong at Volkswagen. We are totally committed to making things right.

“The USA is and remains a core market for the Volkswagen Group.”

Volkswagen last year was caught with roughly 11 million vehicles worldwide that used cheat devices during emissions tests, and the automaker faces billions in fines from a number of government agencies.

Muller said the automaker was in talks with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board.

He said VW has received approval and is ready to implement fixes to fix 8.5 million cars in Europe. About 500,000 cars are affected in the U.S.

Hours before Muller spoke, VW announced it would show a plug-in concept of its Tiguan SUV on Monday at the North American International Auto Show.

He said VW will introduce 20 more electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids by 2020 as it looks for another strategy besides diesels.

Muller said VW was “pleased” with 2015’s auto sales, despite the negative impact the stop-sale of its diesels had in the year’s final months.

He said the automaker was standing by plans to invest more than $1 billion at its Chattanooga plant, as well as an additional $900 million in the production of a new mid-size SUV, creating 2,000 jobs in the U.S.