Volkswagen CEO Matthias Mueller said the embattled automaker’s top priority in 2016 is winning back customer trust and credibility in the wake of violations over diesel emissions rules. With Mueller’s first remark in the United States about the scandal since he was named CEO of the Volkswagen Group in September. They come ahead of a key meeting on VW’s plan to fix its noncompliant diesels.
At the VW Group’s annual reception to kick off the Detroit auto show, Mr Matthias Mueller, Volkswagen CEO in a speech said,“I fully understand the severity of the emissions issue and the impact it has had on all the lives of people who rely on Volkswagen around the world” and “It is not only our cars we have to fix. We know we have to repair our credibility, too,” he added.
“We will offer some solutions and then we will see how the reaction will be,” Mueller said.
As of now, he offered no specifics about when fixes for nearly 600,000 U.S. diesels with software designed to cheat on government emissions tests would be available, only saying they would be deployed when approved by U.S. regulators. The violations have subjected VW to hundreds of lawsuits from angry owners of the affected diesels, in addition to investigations by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), the California Air Resources Board, a coalition of states attorneys general and the U.S. Department of Justice.
Meanwhile, government frustration with Volkswagen’s handling of the crisis, both before and after the violations came to light, appears to be growing. In a civil suit filed last Monday, the Department of Justice said VW “knowingly concealed facts” and provided “misleading information” to government agencies prior to VW’s admission that it had installed the illegal software.
Volkswagen of America Michael Horn told reporters that the talks on Wednesday are predominantly “political” in nature rather than technical. Speaking on this, Horn said,“It’s a discussion on looking at the process so far and what do we need to do together in order to finalize the process on a political level, because the work has to be done with all the experts and the technicians”. “I think it’s good also that our board and Matthias Mueller are meeting with stakeholders here in general to improve the situation, to speed up things.”
In his speech, Mueller reaffirmed the company’s commitment to the U.S. market, including its $1 billion plant in Chattanooga, which is undergoing a $900 million expansion to make room for production of a new midsize crossover to go on sale in early 2017. Volkswagen’s U.S. sales slipped nearly 5 percent last year to 349,440 vehicles. Horn said the VW brand was unlikely to see higher U.S. sales in 2016, noting that growth wasn’t the brand’s biggest priority at the moment.
With unclear affirmation on the fixing of 600,000 U.S. diesels, the brand is still trying to put in its best efforts to gain their customer’s trust and making its priority for 2016.