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VW chief apologizes over emissions scandal on first US trip
Detroit (AFP) Jan 11, 2016

US states say Volkswagen stonewalling emissions probe
New York (AFP) Jan 8, 2016 - Volkswagen has been uncooperative with US states probing its emissions-cheating technology, citing German privacy law in refusing to share documents, two prosecutors said Friday.

The German auto giant has fallen far short of its public pledges of cooperation, said sharply worded statements from the attorneys general of New York and Connecticut, who are leading a VW probe by more than 40 US states in parallel with an ongoing US federal investigation.

"Volkswagen's cooperation with the states' investigation has been spotty -- and frankly, more of the kind one expects from a company in denial than one seeking to leave behind a culture of admitted deception," said New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

"It has been slow to produce documents from its US files, it has sought to delay responses until it completes its 'independent investigation' several months from now, and it has failed to pursue every avenue to overcome the obstacles it says that German privacy law presents to turning over emails from its executives' files in Germany. Our patience with Volkswagen is wearing thin."

Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen, one of six state officials leading the probe, said the states will "seek to use any means available to us" to hold Volkswagen accountable.

"I find it frustrating that, despite public statements professing cooperation and an expressed desire to resolve the various investigations that it faces following its calculated deception, Volkswagen is, in fact, resisting cooperation by citing German law," Jepsen said.

The statements come on the heels of a lawsuit filed Monday by the US Department of Justice that seeks more than $20 billion in damages and said its probe was "impeded and obstructed by material omissions and misleading information provided by VW."

Volkswagen has repeatedly apologized for the scandal in which it admitted installing emissions-cheating technology on more than 11 million diesel engines worldwide, in vehicles of the model years 2009 through 2015.

In response to a request for comment Friday, a Volkswagen spokesman said the company has been responsive to US officials.

"We cooperate closely with the US investigation authorities," he said. "We cannot comment on a pending investigation."

Scandal-hit VW posts first full-year sales drop since 2002
Berlin (AFP) Jan 8, 2016 - Embattled German auto giant Volkswagen Friday posted its first drop in sales in over a decade, as it struggled to recover from a massive pollution cheating scandal.

Sales of vehicles bearing the Volkswagen badge fell 5 percent to 5.82 million, the company said, marking the first such decline in 11 years.

Overall VW group sales, which also include brands like Audi, Porsche and Skoda, reached 9.93 million, 2 percent less than a year ago and the first fall since 2002.

"Almost 10 million vehicles sold -- that's an excellent result given a difficult situation in certain regions and for diesel in the last quarter," said chief executive Matthias Mueller.

He acknowledged that challenges await in 2016, and said the company needed to be "more efficient for a successful future."

Volkswagen sank into its biggest crisis over its stunning revelations in September that it had fitted 11 million of its vehicles with devices designed to cheat pollution tests.

Earlier this week, the US government said it was sueing VW for $20 billion (18 billion euros) in civil penalties.

Mueller is travelling to the United States where he will attend a media reception in Detroit on Sunday.

He has vowed to press on with the company's diesel marketing offensive in the US despite the government lawsuit.

On Friday, VW shares closed 0.09 percent higher at 115.10 euros, defying an overall weak market, with the DAX closing 1.31 percent down.

Volkswagen chief executive Matthias Mueller on Sunday apologized for cheating diesel car emissions tests on his first official US visit since the scandal broke in September.

"We know that we have let down customers, authorities, regulators and the general public here in America," the head of the German carmaker said at a media reception on the eve of the Detroit auto show.

"We are - I am - truly sorry for that and I would like to apologize once again for what went wrong at Volkswagen," he added, stressing that "our most important task in 2016 is to win back trust."

"It's not only our cars we have to fix. We have to repair our credibility, too."

The Wolfsburg-based group admitted it installed software in around 11 million diesel cars of its VW, Audi, SEAT and Skoda brands worldwide that helped them evade emissions standards after US regulators discovered the problem.

The so-called defeat devices turn on pollution controls when the car is undergoing testing, and off when it is back on the road, allowing it to spew out harmful levels of nitrogen oxide.

The affair severely damaged Volkswagen's reputation and spawned a host of investigations in several countries.

The US government sued the carmaker for installing defeat devices on nearly 600,000 of its VW, Audi and Porsche vehicles sold in America between 2009 and 2015.

The complaint alleges that Volkswagen not only intentionally violated clean-air regulations but also obstructed the investigation by concealing facts and providing misleading information, despite the company's public pledges of cooperation.

Speaking to journalists after his speech, Mueller insisted that "we are not a criminal brand or group."

Volkswagen made "huge" technical mistakes, but had "no intention" to deceive the US public or regulators.

- Penalties could top $20 billion -

Civil penalties in the United States could run well above $20 billion. Volkswagen also faces a costly recall, and at least 650 class-action lawsuits from disgruntled US customers.

When asked about the fines, Mueller quipped that people "are overbidding each other every day" in their estimates.

"I am eager to see when the first one is writing about 100 billion," he told reporters, adding that "we have nothing to say about that."

Mueller confirmed that he will meet Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Gina McCarthy on Wednesday in Washington.

"We will offer some solutions and we will see how the reaction will be," he said.

"We have appropriate technical solutions. We will offer the solutions in very short time."

Mueller did not want to get into the details of the package, but when asked by AFP about a possible buyback of more than 100,000 affected vehicles in the United States, he said: "That is part of the solution we want to discuss with Mrs. McCarthy."

However, he said he expects "constructive talks" with McCarthy. He believes the package VW will present is "appropriate," but said "now we have to see if the EPA sees this in the same way."

The automaker is also working on an independent claims resolution program "which fits the problem and which is solving the problem." It will be handled by star lawyer Kenneth Feinberg, known for handling large consumer compensation cases such as the deadly ignition switches used in some General Motors cars.

German newspaper Bild am Sonntag reported on Sunday that VW engineers have come up with a technical solution for some 430,000 affected diesel cars. The vehicles would be refitted with a new catalytic converter to meet US emission standards.

The Volkswagen chief was tight-lipped about other scheduled meetings in Washington, and only said that he will meet "a lot of people."

Mueller also said Volkswagen plans to make an additional $900 million investment in the United States to build a new mid-size SUV.

The investment at VW's Chattanooga plant will create approximately 2,000 jobs, Mueller said.

"The US is and remains a core market for the Volkswagen Group," the CEO said.

Mueller remained bullish on the outlook for diesel, which is about 30 percent more efficient than gasoline engines and can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

"There will be a big future for diesel engines all over the world," he said.

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Previous Report
VW chief hopes to shift gears in Detroit
Washington (AFP) Jan 8, 2016
When the world's leading carmakers unveil glitzy new models at the Detroit auto show next week, Volkswagen's chief executive Matthias Mueller will be in town on a less glamorous mission. In his first US visit since American regulators said VW cheated pollution tests, Mueller will apologize over a scandal that plunged the German auto giant into the deepest crisis of its history and could cost ... read more

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