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"We are sorry and we will fix this, at our expense" - the head of Volkswagen Ireland has been getting a grilling

Lars Himmer says his company accepts full responsibility for the emissions scandal that is haunting the motoring giant.

Germany Volkswagen Source: AP Photo/Michael Sohn

THE HEAD OF Volkswagen Ireland has been up in front of the Oireachtas Transport Committee this afternoon.

Danish native Lars Himmer, who has only been in the job since January of this year, offered his “sincere apologies” for the emissions scandal that has knocked the motoring giant for six.

Volkswagen Ireland deals in Audi, Skoda, and Seat cars to name just three in addition to its own brand.

The company is responsible for almost 2,700 staff here, both directly and indirectly.

“We have let down our customers both abroad and in Ireland, and we’ve abused our long history and the trust placed in us,” Himmer said in his opening statement, a sort of prolonged act of contrition.

vw2 Lars Himmer Source: Oireachtas.ie

We are taking these matters very seriously. We’ve fallen short of the standards expected of us. We will fix this at our expense, and we will co-operate fully with both policy-makers and regulators in order to do so.

The German auto maker has been in crisis since revealing it fitted 11 million diesel vehicles worldwide with a special software mode to cheat emissions tests.

The function meant its cars could breeze through pollution regulations, but in normal driving the vehicles would pump out much higher quantities of toxic and greenhouse gases.

Himmer claims that he first became aware of the trouble facing his company on 19 September, and on 22 September about the extent to which European cars were affected.

Volkswagen Ireland is taking responsibility for 110,000 domestic cars and imports. The rogue software affects cars registered between 2008 and 2015 bearing a specific EA 189 diesel engine.

“All owners affected have been contacted regarding the remedy for the issue,” Himmer said.

We have suspended sales of new cars with the problem engine.  I’d like to point out that the successor to the problem engine the EA 188 is not affected.

Currently almost 116,000 vehicles have been clarified by the company as it sifts through what car owners are affected, while 40,000 problem cars have been identified via the dedicated website set up to tackle the crisis.

vw4 Timmy Dooley Source: Oireachtas.ie

Himmer seemed slightly confused by Fianna Fáil’s Timmy Dooley suggesting that he had no idea who the injured party was with regard to the scandal.

“I am not sure what the question means,” he said. “I am not a legal professional, and that is a legal question.”

We are doing everything in our power to correct the problem, and to start the process of regaining trust with our customers and with our staff.
We have spent 65 years building up an excellent reputation in this country, and we share everyone’s rightful concern over this issue.

Himmer told the committee that it was unclear at present how much the remedy employed by the company will cost them.

“All I can say is it will cause as little inconvenience as possible for our customers,” he said.

Asked whether or not the investigation was in any way close to identifying the culprit behind the software code affecting the cars he said he has “no insights as to who is responsible for the software issue”.

I’m hoping that we will find out very quickly. We need to know and the public does too.
We are working with all the relevant authorities in a  co-operative way. But these investigations are only just beginning.

Volkswagen, which has lost one quarter of its market value since the scandal broke, has set aside €6.5 billion to deal with the immediate fallout from the revelations, but in the long term it faces many times that amount in fines from regulators alone.

If you suspect that your car may be affected by this issue you can check whether or not that is the case using your vehicle registration number at www.campaigncheck.ie

Additional reporting Peter Bodkin

Read: Police seize hard drives and files in raid at Volkswagen HQ in Germany

Read: Tesla’s autopilot mode for cars ‘hopefully’ won’t hit pedestrians, says CEO

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