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From Products Liability Law Daily, October 8, 2015

Volkswagen CEO issues apology for circumventing EPA’s emissions testing regime

By Pamela C. Maloney, J.D.

During an October 8, 2015 House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, hearing chaired by Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.), Volkswagen Group of America President and CEO Michael Horn apologized to the subcommittee members for his company’s use of a software program that served to defeat the regular emissions testing regime. In his prepared statement, Horn made it clear that Volkswagen was taking full responsibility for its actions and pledged to work with all relevant authorities to move forward and to “make things right.”

The hearing, titled “Volkswagen’s Emissions Cheating Allegations: Initial Questions,” to continue the Subcommittee’s examination of the available facts and the initial compliance and consumer issues stemming from Volkswagen AG’s reported use of engine software that would reduce the effectiveness of emissions control systems in certain make and model year diesel passenger vehicles in the United States, in apparent violation of the Clean Air Act and its implementing regulations. On September 18, 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it was issuing a notice of violation (NOV) of the Clean Air Act to Volkswagen AG, Audi AG, and Volkswagen Group of America, Inc. (collectively, “Volkswagen”), for allegedly installing software in four-cylinder Volkswagen and Audi diesel cars from model years 2009-2015 that circumvents EPA emissions standards for certain air pollutants, according to an agency press release [see Products Liability Law Daily’s September 18, 2015 analysis].

Chairmen’s statements. “There are serious issues raised by reports that Volkswagen installed so-called ‘defeat-devices’ in some of their diesel vehicles to circumvent decades old rules in place to protect public health,” said Murphy. “The American people want to know why these devices were in place, how the decision was made to install them, and how they went undetected for so long. We will get them those answers.” “The very notion of a carmaker intentionally violating our environmental laws is beyond belief. Those of us from Michigan take great pride in having a hand in many of the cars on the road today and we appreciate the challenges automakers face to meet consumer demands year after year,” added full committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI). “But reports of Volkswagen selling cars with devices aimed at skirting the law cannot, and will not be tolerated. Attempting to deceive regulators and customers is a double whammy of betrayal. We will get to the bottom of this.” (Press Release, October 1, 2015)

Remediation plan. Acknowledging that there was much work to be done especially in terms of accepting the consequences of our acts, providing a remedy, and beginning to restore the trust of our customers, dealerships, employees, the regulators, and the American public, Horn outlined the following steps designed to help remediate the issue:

  • First, Volkswagen is conducting investigations on a world-wide scale into how these matters happened. Responsible parties will be identified and held accountable. Thorough investigations have already begun, but any information developed at this stage is preliminary.

  • Second, Horn stress that it was important for the public to know that, as the EPA has said, these vehicles do not present a safety hazard and remain safe and legal to drive.

  • Third, technical teams are working to develop remedies for each of the affected groups of vehicles. These solutions will be tested and validated, and then shared with the responsible authorities for approval. There are three groups of vehicles involved, each containing one of the three generations of the 2.0L diesel the our first step for the company’s customers.

  • Fourth, the company will examine its compliance, processes, and standards and adopt measures to make certain that something like this cannot happen again.

  • Fifth, Horn committed to regular and open communication with our customers, dealers, employees, and the public as we move forward. As first steps, we have set up a designated service line and website to be a channel for this communication. Horn added that he has sent a letter to every affected customer.

Companies: Volkswagen Group of America.

MainStory: TopStory MotorEquipmentNews MotorVehiclesNews

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