Volkswagen had its first Congressional hearing yesterday, where the House’s Energy and Commerce Committee grilled top US executive Matthew Horn about the emissions scandal that broke a few weeks ago. It was two hours of questions and deflective answers, and the public are yet to gather much new information.
Horn told the committee he believes the manipulations were caused by only a few employees. Volkswagen senior staff have denied any prior knowledge of the defeat devices, only finding out shortly before the news broke to the world. Horn claims “this was a couple of software engineers who put this in for whatever reasons”, but the committee didn’t seem to believe him, commenting on the likelihood of a massive VW cover up. New CEO Matthias Müller also told newspapers that a small number of employees are to blame.
The questions on everyone’s minds are what will the fix be and how will it affect the car’s performance and fuel economy? Well, we have a vague answer from Horn. Some of the cars will need a software update, most will need physical repairs on the engine and others will need items installed to help with the emissions. Horn has stated that the car’s performance will have a “slight impact” after the fix but the vehicles should still do the MPG stated when bought. The lack of detailed answers hasn’t left anyone feeling reassured.
It’s thought the £4.7 billion put aside to cover the costs of the public aftermath won’t come close to the real amount everything will stack up too. With potential fines, lawsuits, compensation claims, repairs and recalls, not to mention if they’re forced to buy back all the affected cars, the total will likely be more than ten times the amount they’ve allotted.
It’s been reported that more than ten senior managers, including three top engineers, have been suspended as the internal investigation gets underway, although Horn failed to comment on this and German law prevented him from revealing specific names.
VW has lost trust from customers, the general public, the regulators, its employees, and the car industry as a whole. It’ll be a long process to rebuild its reputation and new CEO Matthias Müller has said that battle “will not be painless”. The company has also come under fire for its slow response and lack of information in the aftermath of the scandal. Customers are only now able to check online if their car is one of the 11 million affected, and even then there is no further information if you are one of the unlucky owners.
The UK has said it will be retesting Euro 5 diesel cars as a result of the emissions scandal. The cars will be the VW affected models and will go through laboratory and real-world tests. It’s a step in the right direction if emissions are to be controlled and the US EPA has warned automakers it’ll be taking emissions testing and violations more seriously from now on.
It’s still unclear how exactly the affected cars will be fixed to meet the emissions guidelines but owners should be contacted within the coming weeks with more information. Despite Müller saying he hopes to have all the affected cars fixed by the end of 2016, Horn has said the process could take at least one to two years. It is said the recall will begin in January next year.