Volkswagen chief lays blame for emission scandal on 'small group of employees'
Europe's biggest motor manufacturer Volkswagen has claimed that “only a small group of employees” was responsible for cheating US diesel emissions tests.
Speaking at a press conference on Thursday VW AG Chairman Hans Dieter Poetsch said investigations into the affair were going well and showed that there was “no indication board members were involved” in the biggest crisis in the carmaker's history.
“The scandal was the result of a chain of errors,” he said, adding that it would still take months to say which individuals were to blame.
"Even though we cannot prevent misconduct by individuals once and for all, in future it will be very difficult to bypass our processes."
Mr Poetsch said an external investigation by a US law firm was making good progress but would need time to reach conclusions.
He said VW would not name any individuals involved on Thursday but it was likely “only a small number of people took part in the deception.”
"Based on what we know today, it was a very limited group which acted irresponsibly."
Mr Poetsch added he was not aware of any involvement of members of the management or supervisory boards in emissions test manipulation.
Despite the scandal, VW said orders so far this year were up by 3.5 pc and Chief Executive Matthias Mueller said he was confident drivers would get over their reluctance to buy the group's vehicles in the coming weeks.
Analysts have said VW could have to pay out tens of billions of euros to cover regulatory fines, lawsuits and vehicle refits.
The German motor manufacturer said it had agreed steps to improve oversight of engine-software development to avoid any future emissions test manipulations.
It also hoped to reach agreement with US environmental authorities in the next few weeks so the company can start to recall affected cars there.
Cooperation with those authorities was described as "excellent".
VW admitted in September it had cheated US emissions tests and installed software capable of deceiving regulators on up to 11 million diesel vehicles worldwide, news that wiped billions of euros off its market value and forced out its long-time CEO.
Some US lawmakers were heavily critical of the company in the following days when it blamed a handful of rogue engineers, even though investigations were only getting underway.
But VW's reputation was given a boost on Wednesday when it said another scandal involving the understatement of carbon dioxide emissions was not as bad as feared.