VW's UK boss faces grilling from MPs as 'dieselgate' furore grows in Europe
Paul Willis, the managing director of Volkswagen UK, has been given a rough ride by politicians probing the emissions scandal and the fallout from it in Britain and Europe.
MPs on the UK’s Transport Committee yesterday demanded to know why a report about the Volkswagen nitrogen oxide emissions scandal, authored by US law firm Jones Day and made available to the authorities in America, is being kept secret in Britain.
The car giant has agreed a 15 billion dollar settlement in the US, and the FBI earlier this year arrested VW manager Oliver Schmidt, who is alleged to have orchestrated a cover-up over his company's use of defeat devices to cheat emissions tests.
Several other senior executives from VW have also been indicted in US, and pressure is continuing to grow in Europe, with investigations in Germany continuing.
The UK's transport minister, John Hayes, is now poised to meet his German counterpart for talks about evidence they have gathered.
In Parliament, Transport Committee member Mark Menzies suggested the Jones Day report might be being withheld in Britain because the car company is fearful its release could lead to VW having to pay out compensation to UK customers.
“In the US, Volkswagen agreed a huge compensation package with US authorities,” Menzies stated. “So, they [the Americans] have got access to the report and compensation follows. Is that not a coincidence?”
Paul Willis, managing director of Volkswagen UK, said the “physical report” would not be released in the UK - but he said its findings had been included in the so-called “Statement of Facts” signed by the company as part of a plea bargain in the US.
Referring to the Jones Day report, Menzies asked Willis, “Does it provide evidence that UK customers were deliberately misled by Volkswagen and are therefore owed compensation?”
Willis replied: “No. It’s absolutely clear, absolutely clear. No one will be able to say we misled the customers in any way. We have never ever sold cars on the basis of nitrogen oxide emissions levels.”
Asked by Labour’s Clive Efford why Volkswagen is recalling 1.2million cars across the UK and 8.5 million across Europe, Willis stated, “Our position is that there is nothing wrong with any of them at all.
“That is our position, that the cars weren’t fitted with defeat devices. Some people don’t necessarily agree with us, and so, therefore, to remove any doubt whatsoever, that is why we are applying the technical measures.”
Of the 1.2 million UK vehicles affected by the crisis, there were 508,276 Volkswagen cars, 393,450 Audis, 131,569 Skodas, 79,838 VW commercial vehicles and 76,773 Seats.
Around 20,000 cars a week are being fixed by the company, Willis told MPs. He said the aim was to have all fixes completed by the autumn of this year.
But asked about his company’s behaviour and corporate culture, he declared, “I don’t think we did anything wrong.”
The committee’s chair, Louise Ellman, told him: “It is amazing isn’t it, Mr Willis - you’ve not done anything wrong, yet you are doing all this work and spending this money. When you first came in front of the committee you were full of apologies, but today you said you’ve not misled customers at all.”
Lawyers acting for motorists affected by the scandal now say they have been left with no choice but to sue VW in a bid to obtain compensation.
The UK's Department for Transport says it has not ruled out taking action against the company.
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