UK BOSS SPEAKS UP: VW UK chief, Paul Willis, claims he only knew of the emission scandal when the news was broken in September in the US. Image: AFP Photo / Pru
London, England - Volkswagen first sold cars in Britain equipped with software that could cheat emissions tests in 2008, its UK boss said on Monday (Oct 12), but he shed little light on the root cause of the scandal.
Europe's largest automaker has admitted rigging diesel emissions tests in the United States, and Germany's transport minister says it also manipulated them in Europe.
'I knew nothing'
The company's UK managing director said that, while it first began selling cars in the country equipped with so-called defeat devices around seven years ago, he only became aware of such software in September 2015.
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Paul Willis told a committee of British lawmakers: "I knew nothing about this subject until September 19 this year, when I first heard it on the news from the United States."
The scandal is the biggest crisis in Volkswagen's 78-year history. It has wiped more than a third off the German company's share price, forced out its long-time CEO and prompted investigations around the world.
Volkswagen's US chief executive told American lawmakers earlier in October that the rigging of tests was not a company decision but the result of actions by a small number of engineers.
UK boss Willis said he thought it was implausible that senior officials at Volkswagen knew about the test-rigging.
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He apologised to customers and said the brand needed to rebuild trust, but when asked technical details about the software and engines, he said: "I'm not an engineer."
"My role in the United Kingdom is in sales, marketing, distribution and finance," he said. "The department that looks after the engines, the technical development of Volkswagen, I have no direct relationship with that," he added.
Willis said the automaker would discuss contributing towards the cost of retesting vehicles in Britain.
Britain's transport minister Patrick McLoughlin later told the lawmakers he did not believe other companies making cars in Britain were rigging emissions tests, but that he had yet to receive responses from some automakers to letters he had sent on the issue.