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Volkswagen's US Boss Made Aware Of Emissions Cheating Technology In 2014

Legal Experts Call For Increased Transparency For Consumers


Leading Product Liability lawyers at Irwin Mitchell investigating the situation surrounding Volkswagen’s emissions scandal say there is concern regarding the apparent “car dealers before consumers approach” being taken by executives in the USA.

The US boss of Volkswagen, Michael Horn, has admitted he was made aware of the emissions cheating technology, which has affected millions of the company’s vehicles, in early 2014. He said he was told about a “possible emission non-compliance” issue following a study conducted by West Virginia University.

The company also spoke about creating a discretionary fund for dealerships in the US but lawyers have warned that VW should ensure they don’t put dealers before consumers and called for clarity on whether the scheme will be extended to the UK and Europe.

Specialist lawyers at Irwin Mitchell have been contacted for help by concerned UK drivers regarding the Volkswagen emissions scandal.

Kevin Timms, an expert product liability lawyer, leading the case for Irwin Mitchell, said:

Expert Opinion
“The scale of these problems is clearly immense and it is extremely concerning to hear that an executive in the US knew about the emission-rigging software long before the public were informed of the problem.

“Understandably, concerned consumers in the UK have been in contact with us to seek advice and guidance about their possible legal rights and remedies. Transparency is key in this matter and clearly the US Congress raised important concerns about who knew of the non-compliance with emission regulations.

“The creation of a discretionary fund in the US for dealerships is one step to protect their primary customer base in the US, but so far nothing of this ilk has been implemented for consumers, and there is no clear indication of what steps will be taken in the UK, or globally.

“The US boss today stated that dealer profitability in the US is his number one priority, which is no doubt a serious concern for consumers, who may feel they are not being treated as the number one priority by the company. Clearly, this will only result in consumer confidence remaining damaged.

“For the hundreds of VW owners who have asked us to help, they want to hear from VW Europe and expect the European arm to confirm its position and priorities, as many consumers understandably feel that rectifying the errors and rebuilding consumer confidence should be paramount.”
Kevin Timms, Solicitor

In pre-prepared testimony to a US House of Representatives committee Michael Horn said: “In the spring of 2014 when the West Virginia University study was published, I was told that there was a possible emissions non-compliance that could be remedied.

“I was informed that EPA regulations included various penalties for non-compliance with the emissions standards and that the agencies can conduct engineering tests which could include ‘defeat device’ testing or analysis.

“I was also informed that the company engineers would work with the agencies to resolve the issue. Later in 2014, I was informed that the technical teams had a specific plan for remedies to bring the vehicles into compliance and that they were engaged with the agencies about the process.”

Written evidence submitted to the committee revealed that it was not until 3 September 2015 that Volkswagen informed US authorities about the defeat device in millions of its vehicles.

Mr Horn admitted under questioning that he struggles to believe there was not a “corporate decision” to utilise emission-rigging software. He admitted that it will take a minimum of two years to fix the cars affected by the emission-rigging software in the US.

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