Volkswagen CEO Matthias Mueller says Volkswagen did not lie to regulators — it just misunderstood American law.
After delivering a prepared statement at Detroit’s North American International Auto Show, Mueller sat down with the NPR and spoke at length about the company’s handling of the emission scandal. His comments during the interview were more combative and stand in contrast with those made in the official statement.
VW admitted shortly after the incident in September that it installed so-called defeat devices in more than 482,000 of its diesel engine-powered vehicles, helping them evade the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) emission standards.
The U.S. government filed a lawsuit against the German company last week alleging it misled government regulators and provided false information to Department of Justice investigators. VW faces nearly $50 billion in fines as a result of the scandal.
“We made a default, we had a … not the right interpretation of the American law. And we had some targets for our technical engineers, and they solved this problem and reached targets with some software solutions which haven’t been compatible to the American law,” Mueller said when asked how the company intends on changing the perception of VW as unethical.
When the NPR interviewer suggested in a follow-up question that VW lied to the EPA, Mueller responded by saying that the company didn’t tell falsehoods. “We didn’t lie. We didn’t understand the question first. And then we worked since 2014 to solve the problem,” he said.
“We all know that we have let down customers, authorities, regulators and the general public here in America, too,” Mueller said in the official statement.
He added, “We are — I am — truly sorry for that. And I would like to apologize once again for what went wrong with Volkswagen.”
Mueller attempted to clear up his remarks in a follow-up NPR interview.
“The situation is, first of all we fully accept the violation,” he said in the interview. “There is no doubt about it. Second, we have to apologize on behalf of Volkswagen for that situation we have created in front of customers, in front of dealers and, of course, to the authorities.”
“Second, I have to promise — and we will do the pledge — that we deliver appropriate solutions for our customers. As soon as possible,” Mueller said.
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