Volkswagen of America CEO Horn: We Need to 'Bloody Learn' to Get Act Together

Aaron Cole
by Aaron Cole

Volkswagen of America CEO Michael Horn testified to a congressional committee Thursday that he wasn’t aware until last month of the illegal “defeat device” installed on nearly 500,000 cars in the U.S. — approximately 11 million worldwide — and that the car company could take several years to fix its cars.

Horn testified in front of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce’s subcommittee for oversight and investigations for more than two hours.

“I would like to offer a sincere apology for Volkswagen’s use of a software program that served to defeat the regular emissions testing regime,” Horn said in a prepared response before answering questions from representatives.

Questions from the members of the subcommittee centered on when Horn was made aware of the illegal devices that cheated their way through Environmental Protection Agency emissions tests.

Horn said that he was told of the illegal software code — which could detect when the cars were being tested for emissions and temporarily reduce performance to meet emissions standards in testing-mode only — in September 2015, when the EPA notified the automaker of its non-compliance. He said he was unaware of the defeat device in spring 2014, when researchers at West Virginia University told the automaker its cars polluted up to 40 times the legal limit.

“I had no reason to believe there was a defeat device,” Horn said.

Horn said cars equipped with the illegally polluting diesel engines were recalled in December 2014, but those cars were not brought into compliance with legal standards.

Questions from committee members focused heavily on dealer compensation for cars that Volkswagen refused to sell beginning last month. Horn said the company sent dealers an undisclosed amount of money Oct. 1 to offset losses and to spend for company satisfaction.

Horn added few key details on how the automaker would fix its cars. For Generation 3 cars — model year 2015-2016 cars — a simple software fix would start at the beginning of next year. For Generation 2 cars — Volkswagen Passats starting in 2012 fitted with urea injectors — a fix would be proposed by the “middle of next year,” he said. For Generation 1 cars — Jettas, Golfs and Beetles — which comprise about 350,000 of the 482,000 cars in America, Horn didn’t give a timeline for those significant fixes.

“We know we can fix these vehicles to achieve emissions standards,” Horn said.

Horn said he was disappointed in the automaker in its deception and said that he believed the cheating was limited to a few engineers who knowingly broke the law. Representatives said that was hard to believe.

“Either your entire organization is incompetent … or they are complicit at the highest levels in a massive cover up,” said Rep. Chris Collins, a Republican from New York.

“I worked 25 years for this company … not cheating was always a given for this company, for me,” Horn said. “I hope these (internal) investigations will discover what drove these people … into these decisions and these actions.”

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  • Voyager Voyager on Oct 09, 2015

    From the people who are famous for saying "Wir haben es nicht gewusst? Make that "didn't know we did" and/or "didn't know we weren't supposed to do that". Better look whether Volkswagen did not use cheating software to pass gasoline car emissions testing too...

  • Notapreppie Notapreppie on Oct 09, 2015

    “Either your entire organization is incompetent … or they are complicit at the highest levels in a massive cover up,” said Rep. Chris Collins, a Republican from New York. What an obnoxious false dichotomy. It is NOT either or and there is easily a continuum of possibilities here. Possible scenarios: 1) Upper level manager/exec saying to a middle manager in diesel drivetrain engineering, in a fit of rage, "Look, just f-ing make it work! I don't care how! If we don't meet these targets in 6 months, you're fired!" And then that exec never bothered to check up on how they achieved those targets. 2) Two groups were placed against each other competitively and one group cheated to get the bonus. What Rep. Collins doesn't seem to understand is that large organizations don't have the all-knowing MCP from Tron sitting at the top. Hell, the MCP wasn't even all-knowing. I wish, wish, wish politicians would quit pandering to the intellectually inferior who can't possibly understand concepts that have more than two shades of gray.

  • Duane Baldinger Where can I send the cash? It's a surprise BDAY present for my cupcake Mailman. D Duane
  • Art Vandelay Pour one out for the Motors Liquidation Corporation
  • Bill Wade Norm, while true I'll leave you with this. My 2023 RAM is running Android 8 released in 2017.My wife's navigation on her GM truck is a 2021 release, I believe the latest. Android Auto seems to update very week or two. Now, which would you rather have? Anybody with a car a couple of years old NEVER sees any updates. Heck, if your TV is a few years old it's dead on updates. At least cell phones are rapidly updated. If your old phone won't update, buy another $200 phone. If your GM vehicle doesn't update do what, buy another $50,000 GM vehicle?
  • Lou_BC Once again, Mustang is the last pony car standing. Camaro RIP, Challenger RIP.
  • FreedMike Next up should DEFINITELY be the Cadillac Eldorado. On the subject of Caddies, I saw a Lyriq in person for the first time a couple of days ago, and I'm changing my tune on its' styling. In person, it works quite well, and the interior is very nicely executed.