WASHINGTON -- Two senior Volkswagen executives cancelled a planned appearance at a media event scheduled today to introduce the re-engineered 2016 Volkswagen Passat midsize sedan.
Herbert Diess, chairman of the Volkswagen brand’s management board, and Heinz-Jakob Neusser, VW’s board member in charge of technical development, had planned to attend the event in New York City. A VW spokeswoman today confirmed that the pair had cancelled those plans.
The cancellations underscore the seriousness with which VW management views charges from U.S. environmental officials that the company intentionally skirted clean-air rules.
U.S. environmental regulators say VW has admitted to installing software on some diesel-powered Audi and VW vehicles to provide false emissions data in compliance tests.
The event today would have marked Diess’ first U.S.-appearance as VW’s global brand chief, at the launch of an important model update for the Passat, which includes all new sheetmetal from the A-pillar forward.
Volkswagen of America CEO Michael Horn will attend the event and is expected to provide a statement about the situation, but would not be available for media questions, according to the spokeswoman.
Volkswagen AG CEO Martin Winterkorn issued an apology on Sunday and said the company was launching an external investigation into the matter.
“I personally am deeply sorry that we have broken the trust of our customers and the public. We will cooperate fully with the responsible agencies, with transparency and urgency, to clearly, openly, and completely establish all of the facts of this case,” Winterkorn said in the statement.
“We at Volkswagen will do everything that must be done in order to re-establish the trust that so many people have placed in us, and we will do everything necessary in order to reverse the damage this has caused. This matter has first priority for me, personally, and for our entire Board of Management.”
The U.S. Justice Department is investigating the matter and EPA officials say VW executives could face criminal charges.