Volk­swa­gen ‘fixes 470,000 UK diesel cars’

The Malta Business Weekly - - FRONT PAGE -

VW's top UK ex­ec­u­tive, Paul Wil­lis, has said that of the 1.2 mil­lion cars in the UK af­fected by the diesel emis­sions scan­dal, 470,000 have been fixed.

"At the cur­rent rate, we are ap­ply­ing these measures to 20,000 cars a week," he told MPs on the Trans­port Com­mit­tee.

But af­ter he had left the hear­ing, Mr Wil­lis was ac­cused of ly­ing to MPs over whether he had sup­plied the gov­ern­ment with promised in­for­ma­tion.

A VW spokesman said Mr Wil­lis had in­deed handed over what was promised.

Mr Wil­lis told the MPs there had been no re­dun­dan­cies in the UK be­cause of the diesel dis­hon­esty.

In­deed, the com­pany was trying to re­cruit more peo­ple to help with the tech­ni­cal fixes, he said.

Many UK VW own­ers are an­gry that they will re­ceive no com­pen­sa­tion as a re­sult of the scan­dal, un­like cus­tomers in the US.

But Mr Wil­lis said there was "no le­gal ba­sis for com­pen­sa­tion".

He added there was no com­par­i­son be­tween the sit­u­a­tion in the US and Europe.

The scan­dal broke in 2015, when it emerged that the car­maker had in­stalled "de­feat de­vices" in its diesel mod­els that al­lowed them to fal­sify the re­sults of US pol­lu­tion tests.

Mr Wil­lis told the MPs that VW had handed over all the in­for­ma­tion asked for by the gov­ern­ment so it could press on with in­quiries.

Later on in the what be­came a heated com­mit­tee ses­sion af­ter Mr Wil­lis had left - the Trans­port Min­is­ter John Hayes, who is look­ing at the diesel emis­sions scan­dal's im­pact in the UK, said it was "not true" that VW had given him all the in­for­ma­tion re­quested.

Com­mit­tee mem­ber Gra­ham Stringer MP went fur­ther, say­ing of Mr Wil­lis's tes­ti­mony, "I have seen all sorts of eva­sive wit­nesses, but I think we have just seen some­body tell us ab­so­lute bla­tant lies."

Re­spond­ing to the ex­change, a Volk­swa­gen spokesman told the BBC that Mr Wil­lis has sup­plied what he agreed to sup­ply, but that the gov­ern­ment may have re­quested more.

The com­pany will pay £1.1m for test­ing Volk­swa­gen ve­hi­cles, but not the £0.9m needed to test other com­pa­nies' ve­hi­cles.

In his tes­ti­mony, Mr Wil­lis had said "I don't think we did any­thing wrong".

For his part, Mr Hayes said this was a shift from the com­pany's orig­i­nal po­si­tion.

"I think VW acted ex­tremely badly," he said.

"I think it is ex­tra­or­di­nary in their ev­i­dence this af­ter­noon they seemed to be uncer­tain about whether they had be­haved badly or not.

"Yet when this scan­dal first broke their tone was a very dif­fer­ent one," he added.

Dur­ing the hear­ing Mr Hayes also asked about a re­port into the scan­dal writ­ten by lawyers Jones Day, which was com­mis­sioned by VW.

The MPs said VW had promised the com­mit­tee that it would be pub­lished, but the car­maker had now de­cided not to.

Mr Hayes said one could "rea­son­ably as­sume" that one rea­son is "that it con­tains in­for­ma­tion which con­tra­dicts what Volk­swa­gen have said both pub­licly and to this com- mit­tee".

While VW has agreed to pay fines and com­pen­sa­tion in the US amount­ing to more than $19bn, it in­sists that legally in Europe it did noth­ing wrong.

It ac­cepts that 8.5 mil­lion ve­hi­cles in Europe were fit­ted with soft­ware that could de­tect when they were be­ing tested for emis­sions.

But it de­nies that the soft­ware amounts to a "de­feat de­vice" un­der EU law.

Ian Yarnold, head of in­ter­na­tional ve­hi­cle stan­dards at the Depart­ment for Trans­port told the MPs that he thought the de­vice was "pro­hib­ited," but that he would need to gather ev­i­dence to de­ter­mine if fit­ting the de­vices amounted to a crim­i­nal act.

Mr Hayes said he and his boss, trans­port min­is­ter Chris Grayling, would go to Ger­many next month to meet their coun­ter­parts and seek more in­for­ma­tion. He added that the gov­ern­ment had not ruled out launch­ing le­gal ac­tion against VW.

VW de­nies mis­lead­ing mil­lions of con­sumers as it claims it did not sell ve­hi­cles based upon low ni­tro­gen ox­ide emis­sions.

The chair­man of the Trans­port Se­lect Com­mit­tee, Louise Ell­man MP, said that it had heard of com­plaints from cus­tomers whose cars had been sub­jected to Volk­swa­gen's tech­ni­cal fix.

Mr Wil­lis re­sponded that there had been around 3,500 such com­plaints, which he said amounted to 0.75% of those whose cars had been re­called.

He in­sisted that in 65% of cases, the com­plaints were "sub­jec­tive" and linked to is­sues such as the feel of the car and noise lev­els.

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