Michael Horn, President and CEO of Volkswagen America, introduces the new Beetle Dune at the LA Auto Show in Los Angeles, California, United States November 18, 2015. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Michael Horn, President and CEO of Volkswagen America, introduces the new Beetle Dune at the LA Auto Show in Los Angeles, California, United States November 18, 2015. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

VW boss: Emissions fix will take time

By Valerie Hamilton Time of article published Nov 19, 2015

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Los Angeles Motor Show, California - A remedy for Volkswagen's diesel emissions troubles is in the works, but “this will take time,” the company's US chief executive said Wednesday, ahead of a key deadline set by regulators.

Speaking at Volkswagen's annual product presentation at the Los Angeles motor show, Michael Horn did not elaborate on VW’s plans for a fix for the hundreds of thousands of Volkswagen TDI diesel cars found to be violating US air quality regulations by manipulating emissions testing results.

He said he would release details only after VW's plan passes muster with US regulators, in meetings that will begin on Friday.

The US Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board, which exposed VW's emissions cheating on 18 September, have given Volkswagen until then to propose a solution that will fix the cars and do right by US consumers who believed they were buying “clean” diesel vehicles.

CARB chair Mary Nichols said that she had not yet heard details of what Volkswagen will propose.

“We're hoping that they will come forward and present us with some ideas that we can embrace and say yes, that will fix the problem, that will mitigate the harm you've caused,” she said.

But from Friday, she added, the clock would be ticking. If Volkswagen failed to submit an acceptable plan within a few weeks, the US agencies could potentially impose hefty fines.

“It doesn't keep going forever,” she said. “There's a deadline.”

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Nichols criticised Volkwagen's initial approach to resolving the problem, which she characterised as “more one of worrying about their stock price and maybe their consumers to some extent, as opposed to the environmental damage they’ve caused”.

Horn got a cool reception at Volkwagen's presentation of new car models at the Los Angeles Convention Centre, joking as he took the stage that “we're going to have to practice the applause.”

Volkswagen has apologised to US consumers who bought about 500 000 two-litre diesel cars that had been doctored to mask nitrogen oxide emissions of up to 40 times the levels allowable under stringent US standards.

In the US, Volkwagen has offered owners of the offending cars “pure goodwill” packages worth about $1000 (R14 150). Horn said 120 000 people, about a quarter of VW TDI owners in the US, had signed up since the incentive was announced on 9 November.

Volkswagen has taken out full-page advertisements in 30 US newspapers apologising to owners and publicising the offer.

Nichols said “those are good things to do from a broad public relations perspective but they don't address the underlying problem, that the technology that is out there now that has been causing excessive pollution and that will continue to cause excessive pollution until we get it fixed”.

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