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VW's Horn: 'No prior knowledge of defeat devices'

Volkwagen's head of US operations Michael Horn has confirmed to a Congressional subcommittee that he learned about a problem with emissions levels in VW cars long ago. But he said he wasn't aware of any defeat devices.

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VW's Horn before US Congress

Answering question from US lawmakers on Thursday, Volkswagen's US chief Michael Horn admitted

he knew more than a year ago

that some of the company's cars possibly breached pollution rules. He said he was told by his staff that US authorities might conduct thorough emissions tests soon.

Horn added that he had been informed later that year that technical teams were planning to bring the affected vehicles into compliance.

He told the panel that he had no knowledge at the time that obvious non-compliance with emission regulations in the US in a number of cars was the result of so-called "defeat devices" capable of rigging laboratory test results.

Horn said the scandal over those detected defeat devices was "deeply troubling," promising VW would fully cooperate with authorities to ensure "this will never happen again."

Horn noted his company was working feverishly to find a remedy for cars affected by the scandal. He spoke of three different types of diesel engines needing three different fixes ranging from simple software updates to more complicated and time-consuming engine modifications.

No mercy for VW

Stuck in its deepest crisis ever, Volkswagen has seen its stock decreasing by over a third since the scandal broke. The direct and indirect costs are still incalculable as the carmaker braces for hefty fines in several countries and damage claims from customers.

In the US alone, VW faces up to $18 billion (15.9 billion euros) in fines from the Environmental Protection Agency and potential payouts from class action lawsuits.

The group said it had set aside 6.5 billion euros in the third quarter as an estimate sum to cover repairs of affected vehicles worldwide.

hg/cjc (dpa, Reuters)

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