A remedy for the Volkswagen's (VW) diesel emissions troubles is in the works, but "will take time," the company's U.S. CEO said Wednesday, ahead of a key deadline set by regulators.
Speaking at VW's annual product presentation at the Los Angeles Auto Show, Michael Horn did not elaborate on the German automaker's plans for a fix to the hundreds of thousands of VW TDI diesel cars found to be violating US air quality regulations by manipulating emissions testing results. He said he would release details only after VW's plan passes muster with U.S. regulators in meetings that will begin Friday. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board (CARB), which exposed VW's emissions cheating on Sept.18, have given VW until then to propose a solution that will fix the cars and do right by U.S. consumers who believed they were buying "clean" diesel vehicles.
CARB Chair Mary Nichols said that she had not yet heard details of what Volkswagen will propose. "We're hoping that they will come forward and present us with some ideas that we can embrace and say yes, that will fix the problem, that will mitigate the harm you've caused," she told dpa. But she said once Friday comes, the clock is ticking. If VW fails to submit an acceptable plan within a few weeks, the U.S. agencies could potentially impose hefty fines. "It doesn't keep going forever," she said. "There's a deadline."
Nichols criticized VW's initial approach to resolving the problem, which she characterized as "more one of worrying about their stock price and maybe their consumers to some extent as opposed to the environmental harm that they have caused." Horn got a cool reception at VW's presentation of new car models at the Los Angeles Convention Center, joking as he took the stage: "We're going to have to practice the applause."
VW has apologized to U.S. consumers who bought about 500,000 2.0-liter diesel cars that had been doctored to mask nitrogen oxide emissions of up to 40 times levels allowable under stringent U.S. standards. In the U.S., VW has offered owners of the offending cars "pure goodwill" packages worth about $1,000. Horn said 120,000 people, about a quarter of VW TDI owners in the U.S., had signed up since the incentive was announced Nov. 9. VW has taken out full-page advertisements in 30 U.S. newspapers apologizing to owners and publicizing the offer. Nichols said: "Those are good things to do from a broad public relations perspective but they don't address the underlying problem, that the technology that is out there now that has been causing excessive pollution and that will continue to cause excessive pollution until we get it fixed."