Scandal-hit VW to press on with diesel offensive in US: CEO


Berlin (AFP)

Volkswagen chief Matthias Mueller said Wednesday the embattled group would press on with its diesel marketing offensive in the United States, despite a massive government lawsuit over its pollution cheating scandal.

The German auto giant plunged into its biggest crisis over revelations that it had installed software in 11 million diesel vehicles worldwide aimed at skewing pollution data.

The scandal first came to light in the United States, where the government on Monday sued Volkswagen for more than $20 billion (18 billion euros) over the scam.

Nevertheless, Mueller told business magazine Wirtschaftswoche that VW would maintain its bid to grow its diesel market in the United States.

"I see no reason to not at least try," he said.

He acknowledged that VW had made a mistake in installing the rogue software, but pointed out that "without diesel, it is almost impossible for our industry to reach our carbon emissions target".

Electric vehicles are only likely to be as cost efficient as fuel-driven cars in the next five to 10 years, he said, adding that "until then we need diesel".

Diesels produce less CO2 than petrol engine, although they emit more nitrogen dioxide pollution.

Volkswagen's reputation is in tatters over the scandal, and Mueller said 650 class action suits had been filed against the group in the United States alone.

He is now trying to overhaul the group, right down to the slogan of "Volkswagen. Das Auto", saying that it is "not precise enough".

"The repositioning of the group would take two to three years, and is no child's play," said Mueller.

"But once new structures and formats take shape, then it is the first step to success," he said.

Mueller is scheduled to travel to the United States next week where he will meet "political leaders", Volkswagen has said, without revealing any details.

VW is scheduled to start recalling some 8.5 million affected vehicles in Europe this month, but the company is still a long way from reaching an agreement with US authorities on a programme to rectify the problem.

In the worst-case scenario, VW may be forced to buy back all 600,000 affected cars in the United States, analysts have said.

The company said Tuesday its sales in the United States fell by nine percent in December, and by five percent in 2015 overall.