NEW YORK (Bloomberg) -- Volkswagen AG’s top U.S. executive was profusely apologetic for the diesel-emissions cheating scandal that emerged on Friday and vowed to win back the trust of the U.S. consumer.
“Our company was dishonest with the EPA, and the California Air Resources Board and with all of you,” Michael Horn, the head of the VW brand in the U.S., said Monday night in Brooklyn, New York, where he was revealing a redesigned version of the slow-selling Passat sedan at an event featuring rock star Lenny Kravitz. “And in my German words: We have totally screwed up. We must fix the cars to prevent this from ever happening again and we have to make this right. This kind of behavior is totally inconsistent with our qualities.”
The scandal has widened since the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency revealed on Friday that Volkswagen admitted that it had rigged diesel vehicles to pass emissions tests in the lab, exposing the company to as much as $18 billion in fines. Europe’s biggest carmaker faces increased scrutiny with South Korea testing VW vehicles. The U.S. Justice Department is also conducting a criminal investigation, said officials familiar with the inquiry. The executive committee of the carmaker’s supervisory board meets Wednesday to discuss the crisis, said people familiar with the matter.
Volkswagen shares, which lost 19 percent on Monday, continued to tumble, falling as much as 5.2 percent to 125.30 euros in Frankfurt trading. The stock has now lost 30 percent this year.
Horn, and global VW brand chief Herbert Diess, canceled an interview with reporters and Horn left without taking questions at the first public appearance of a top Volkswagen executive since the EPA and the CARB said on Friday that the automaker admitted it had installed a “defeat device” to cheat emissions tests in a half-million of its diesel cars from the 2009-15 model years.
“We are committed to do what must be done and to begin to restore your trust,” Horn said. “We will pay what we have to pay.”
The company sold diesel versions of Volkswagen and Audi cars with software that turns on full pollution controls only when the car is undergoing official emissions testing. During normal driving, the cars pollute 10 times to 40 times the legal limits, the EPA said.
The affected models include diesel-powered versions of the Passat, as well as the VW Beetle, Jetta and Golf. The Audi A3 is also part of the investigation. Last month, diesel models accounted for 23 percent of VW brand sales in the U.S., according to a company news release.