VW U.S. chief to testify before Congress

David Shepardson
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — Volkswagen AG’s top U.S. executive is scheduled to testify before Congress next week along with Environmental Protection Agency officials, as it investigates the German automaker’s admitted cheating on diesel emissions for 11 million vehicles worldwide.

The VW’s U.S. chief, Michael Horn, will be called to appear before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing Oct. 8.

Horn said last week at an event to unveil the new Passat: “Let’s be clear about this: Our company was dishonest — with the EPA and the California Air Resources Board — and with all of you. And in my German words: We totally screwed up. We must fix those cars.”

VW is facing investigations from the Justice Department, 29 state attorneys general, German prosecutors and regulators around the world after the EPA said 2009-2015 diesel VW cars had software that allowed them to pass laboratory emissions tests but were able to emit up to 40 times allowable smog-forming pollution in real world driving.

Horn said the automaker will work to prevent this from ever happening again. Horn vowed to make things right for VW’s 5 million American owners as well as its dealers. He said “our future” depends on turning the crisis into an opportunity. VW “will do what it needs to be done” and “pay what we need to pay” to make things right. He said that kind of behavior “is completely inconsistent with our core.”

The company’s CEO resigned last week and VW set aside $7.3 billion to address the problem worldwide. The company has named a long-time executive to oversee North America as part of a new unit.

“Attempting to deceive regulators and customers is a double whammy of betrayal,” said U.S. Rep Fred Upton, R-Mich. “We will get to the bottom of this.”

Separately, VW confirmed it has hired law firm Jones Day to lead an investigation into the scandal. The firm represented Chrysler in its 2009 bankruptcy restructuring and the city of Detroit in its 2013 bankruptcy. The company said the investigation will take at least several months.

Separately, Volkswagen of America said U.S. sales rose in September — up 0.6 percent for its VW brand, but behind that of other automakers. Its luxury Audi unit was up 16.2 percent. Just one Audi make — the A3 diesel — is among the 482,000 VW cars in the United States that are part of the emissions issue.

Earlier this week, leaders of the panel sent letters to EPA and VW demanding documents about the issue.

VW dealers are trying to address the controversy. One major VW dealer outside Washington, D.C. — Lindsey Volkswagen — sent a note to owners late Wednesday telling them that it is paying to plant 3,000 trees in U.S. National Forests to offset additional emissions from diesel cars it sold.