By on October 8, 2015


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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14 Comments on “Volkswagen of America CEO Horn: We Need to ‘Bloody Learn’ to Get Act Together...”

  • avatar

    “We need to ‘bloody learn’ to…”

    What? Speak American.

  • avatar

    What I don’t understand is why VW didn’t always tune the car for proper emissions? Did they really think about 15 hp, 30 ft lbs, and a few mpg (not sure of the exact numbers) were worth the several billion dollars it would cost them if they were caught. Even with the differences in power and mileage I’d think sales would be similar.

  • avatar

    “Horn said the cars with the illegal engines were recalled in December 2014, but those cars were not brought into legal compliance standards.” (Slight paraphrase)

    So what was the purpose of that recall? Was the purpose of that to fix the emissions problem and it didn’t work? Or was there another issue that happened to affect those indicted vehicles? Or is this supposed to show VW made a valiant effort? Or was there a system reflash to remove the offending code from as many vehicles as possible?

    • 0 avatar

      That’s basically it. They worked with the EPA to fix it quietly, but it didn’t work. VW calls it the 23O6 campaign. I got the notice on my car but haven’t had it done and am glad I didn’t schedule it. People on the TDI forums report more DPF regens and lower fuel economy, so I can only imagine what the “generation 1” fix will do to cars that didn’t come from the factory with a urea system.

  • avatar

    “I hope these (internal) investigations will discover what drove these people … into these decisions and these actions.”

    Sounds like they have already decided that it was a “small group” of engineers in some unknown basement lab in Siberia. Yeah, right! The people who did this probably ride the same elevator as Winterkorn and high-fived him on the way to lunch.

    This is how it went down:

    Senior Engineer: “Hey Winterkorn, we found a solution, but it’s not pretty…”
    Winterkorn “Say no more, just do it. Plausible deniability my good fellow! *wink* *wink*”

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    They don’t need to talk with Horn – he’s a victim.

    Horn is exceptionally unhappy, and he’s probably trying to provide Congress with just enough information to satisfy them, without exploding in rage and losing his job in the process.

    He’s probably already looking for an escape hatch to get away from the stench. His job was already impossible, given VW’s weak lineup. TDI was its one strong point.

    • 0 avatar

      Working for a all knowing German company that dictates every move from HQ can be hard on people that actually know the local markets. But the masters will never listen to them because they are all doctor professors and whatnot, and there’s no way anyone else can know more than they do, about anything.

  • avatar

    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…

  • avatar

    “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:
    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.

    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.

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