LAS VEGAS— Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess didn’t waste much time addressing the elephant in the room when he appeared at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show on Tuesday evening, tackling the diesel emissions scandal that plagued the German car maker last year.
Diess, who took the helm of the company last September after embattled CEO Martin Winterkorn resigned, wished attendees a happy new year.
But quickly after those formalities, he launched into a 4-minute apology, touching on various aspects of the scandal, one which arose last year after U.S. regulators discovered that VW used illegal software to get around emissions standards.
Here is the full apology:
“For more than 60 years, the Volkswagen brand has been at home in the United States. So, 60 years has been full of great moments, great emotions and great successes, and we are proud of it. Of course, the current issue with the diesel engines is certainly nothing to be proud of. We disappointed our customers, and the American people, for which I am truly sorry and for which I apologize.
We at Volkswagen are disappointed that this could happen within the company we love. I ensure you, we are doing everything we can to make things right. And we are working night and day to find effective technical remedies for our customers … worldwide. In total, up to 11 million Volkswagen group cars are affected by this issue, but the large majority of these cars we have already worked out approved solutions. In Europe, this holds true for about 8.5 million affected cars. The solutions have been ratified by the European authorities and we will start to repair these cars this month, and most of them will be fixed within 2016.
Here in the U.S., the set of regulations is different compared to Europe. It is more demanding in terms of nitrogen oxide and less demanding in terms of CO2. We are working hard to present an acceptable package to the U.S. authorities … and we are confident that we will find good solutions for the affected U.S. vehicle and our valued customers. In recent weeks, we have made significant progress. We are preparing a comprehensive plan on how to bring about 500,000 affected vehicles here in the U.S. into compliance with the emission regulations. And we are in an ongoing constructive dialogue with EPA … about what is really needed. We greatly appreciate their help and I am optimistic that we will gain their approval within the coming weeks, and months.
Once again, we are committed to making things right, and we are focused on making sure that something can never happen again at Volkswagen. But there is a second message that we would like to bring to you tonight. We are now creating a different and better company, a new Volkswagen. We are in the process of redefining every aspect of Volkswagen. We are reviewing our thinking, our approach, our products and, of course, we are reviewing our view of the future of mobility.”
The words from Diess are more important than ever, since the U.S. Department of Justice on Monday filed a civil suit in Detroit against car maker, a case that seeks penalties that could top $18 billion, according to The Wall Street Journal.
After that apology, Diess went on to talk about some of the upcoming innovations at the car maker, most notably the E-Golf Touch and the BUDD-e, which is a long distance electric microbus.
The question, however, remains: Will Volkswagen be able to survive this storm and continue to innovate?