House wants VW, EPA documents on emissions probe
Washington — A House committee asked Volkswagen AG to turn over documents by Oct. 13, ahead of a planned hearing on the German automaker’s diesel emissions cheating scandal affecting 11 million vehicles worldwide.
“It seems Volkswagen had a dirty little secret, and it’s not just consumers who are feeling betrayed. There are many unanswered questions and we will get the facts and the answers that the American people deserve,” said Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Tim Murphy, R-Pa.
Democrats also criticized VW. The top Democrat on the panel, Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., and subcommittee ranking Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., said Congress will ensure this doesn’t happen again: “The Clean Air Act has been put in place for very good reason — to protect the public health and keep Americans safe. It is the law of the land, and we must make sure that EPA has the tools necessary to enforce these policies and also detect any fraud that may be occurring. We will continue to investigate this deceptive activity on the part of Volkswagen to ensure that these blatant violations do not happen again.”
Congress wants documents about what happened, including a detailed presentation that VW made to EPA on Sept. 3 explaining how it installed secret “defeat device” software that allowed 482,000 2009-2015 diesel cars to emit up to 40 times legally allowable nitrogen oxide emissions. They also want a detailed timeline on what happened. The House also wants to know if any auto suppliers were involved in the software that was designed to activate pollution control equipment only during emissions testing.
In a separate letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, the House wants more details of its investigation. EPA staff briefed the House Committee last week.
The Justice Department, at least 29 state attorneys general, German prosecutors and environmental regulators around the world are investigating. VW could face up to $18 billion in fines in the U.S. for violating the Clean Air Act. VW said Monday it has a fix for some European vehicles but has not found a fix for U.S. vehicles.
Separately, VW confirmed it has named the head of its European Skoda brand to a new position overseeing North America — including the U.S. market. Its part of an effort by Volkswagen to decentralize its operations.
Winfried Vahland will take over the North American Region as president and CEO on Nov 1. The company is not firing Michael Horn, who has been head of the U.S. operations for nearly two years. Vahland also recently headed VW’s Chinese region. Vahland began his career at General Motors Corp in 1984 and joined Audi in 1990.
“With the creation of the new North American Region, on top of the existing structure of the markets, Volkswagen Group is strengthening its activities in the U.S.A., Mexico and Canada,” VW said in a statement. It said the step is a further measure in the process of decentralizing managerial responsibility.” The aim among other things is to have the ability to react better to customer demands and tastes in the future; closer proximity to the markets and their customers will enable this.”