Volkswagen boss says firm in Europe ‘misled nobody’ over emissions – The Guardian

Posted: Tuesday, February 21, 2017

MPs have reacted with incredulity after the boss of Volkswagen told them the company in Europe had done nothing wrong and “misled nobody”, despite having agreed a multibillion-dollar settlement in the US over the emissions-rigging scandal.

Paul Willis, giving evidence to the transport select committee on Monday, insisted there was “no legal basis” for compensation claims because there was “no degradation” to the vehicles.

“At no time were any vehicles sold to anyone in Europe based on nitrogen oxide levels,” he said. Volkswagen has agreed to pay $15bn (£12.3bn) in the US to settle claims and buy back polluting cars.

During a combative and fractious hearing, MPs attacked VW’s UK boss for failing to give answers to straight answers.

“You come before us and your mouth opens and words cascade out and then the next time you come before us those words have changed in meaning,” Conservative MP Mark Menzies said.

He attacked Willis for repeatedly using phrases such as “to the best of my knowledge” and “I can’t recall”. Willis said he had “prepared very diligently” for the session and had answered the questions as “open and transparently” as he could.

John Hayes, the transport minister, said the company’s inability to recognise its failures was “little short of ridiculous”. He told MPs: “I think Volkswagen acted extremely badly. I think it is extraordinary in their evidence earlier they seemed to be uncertain about whether they had behaved badly or not yet when this scandal first broke their tone was a very different one.”

Hayes said he will be travelling to Germany in March to meet his counterpart for talks about the evidence that they have gathered. Pressed on why the government had not taken action against Volkswagen, he replied: “I’ve said throughout we haven’t ruled out taking action.”

Hayes said the “righteous indignation” felt by MPs was shared in the Department for Transport. “I will take any actions within my power to ensure right is done,” the minister added.

Willis told MPs that fewer than half of the UK vehicles caught up in the Volkswagen emissions scandal had been fixed. Around 470,000 of the 1.2m vehicles fitted with software to cheat environmental tests have been dealt with, he said.

He told MPs some “small issues” that were “very problematic” to fix had caused delays but the rest should be done by autumn.

Of the 1.2m UK vehicles affected by the crisis, there were 508,276 Volkswagen cars, 393,450 Audis, 131,569 Skodas, 79,838 VW commercial vehicles and 76,773 Seats. Around 20,000 cars a week are being fixed by the company, Willis told MPs.

He added: “We are very pleased with that level of technical fix. Our customers are telling us that they are satisfied with the level of technical fix and we have been talking to the Department for Transport and informing them of this progress.

“So, in the main we are pleased. It’s not perfect, of course, I wouldn’t ever pretend to you that it’s perfect.

“We are pleased to say that by autumn time that we should have achieved what we hope to achieve, which is all the vehicles we committed to applying the technical measure.”


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