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Volkswagen Promises To Compensate Diesel Car Owners For Lost Resale Value

Dec 10, 2015
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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Now some reassurance for Volkswagen diesel owners who were hurt by the emissions scandal. Company officials said at a news conference today that VW will compensate owners for any loss in the resale value of their cars. NPR's John Ydstie reports that the officials also commented on the origins of the cheating scandal which will likely cost the company tens of billions of dollars.

JOHN YDSTIE, BYLINE: Han Deiter Poetsch, who chairs Volkswagen's supervisory board, began the news conference with a long monologue, apologizing for the company's cheating and expressing great regret about the breach of trust with its customers, investors and employees.

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HAN DEITER POETSCH: (Through interpreter) Our most important task and our biggest challenge now is to win back that trust.

YDSTIE: Among the ways the company plans to do that is to identify those responsible for creating and deploying the software that facilitated cheating on emissions tests. Poetsch said both an internal investigation and an independent one by a U.S. law firm are making progress on that front.

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POETSCH: (Through interpreter) We are relentlessly searching for those responsible for what happened, and you may rest assured that we will bring these persons to account.

YDSTIE: Poetsch once again expressed the belief that only a, quote, "comparatively small number of employees was actively involved in the manipulations." That's a view that critics say overlooks the role of a rigid management culture at VW under its former CEO Martin Winterkorn and board chair Ferdinand Peich. Their goal was to make Volkswagen the world's largest car company. Part of that strategy involved boosting the sale of diesel-powered cars in the United States. That's how the cheating scandal originated. He says VW engineers could not find a way to meet the tough U.S. emissions standards for nitrogen oxide.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

POETSCH: (Through interpreter) Or, at least, they could not find a way they felt, at the time, to be meaningful and that fitted the timeframe and the budget they had been given.

YDSTIE: So the engineers decided to cheat. They developed software that adjusted engine performance to pass emissions tests, but in actual driving, the cars were highly polluting. Eleven million cars worldwide were fitted with the software, around half a million in the U.S. Later, Poetsch said a technical solution to reduce emissions was found. It required injecting a fluid called AdBlue into the exhaust.

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POETSCH: (Through interpreter) These solutions were not, in fact, used as they should've been done, apparently, in the mistaken interest of customers.

YDSTIE: Customers would have been required to bring their cars in for maintenance more often, something that could have hurt sales. When it was his turn, CEO Mathias Mueller was asked whether he would kneel in repentance when he visits the Detroit Auto Show in January.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

MATHIAS MUELLER: (Through interpreter) Whether I'll be kneeling down or not, well, not for me to say at this point. I think I'll be self-confident, and I, of course, will apologize for things that have occurred. But I will be optimistic and quite confident looking into the future.

YDSTIE: Mueller said a fix for VW's diesel cars in Europe has been approved and will be completed by the end of 2016. He said talks continue with U.S. officials on the company's more-complex proposal to fix U.S. diesels. He suggested a final agreement may still be several weeks away. John Ydstie, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.