Details are now slowly emerging on how scandal-hit Volkswagen plans to clean up its emissions-rigged vehicles globally. Newly appointed chief executive Matthias Mueller has said that the company plans to start recalling affected cars in January.
All affected cars will be fixed by the end of 2016, he told German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Effectively, the carmaker is hopeful that it will be able to recall the 11 million diesel vehicles that it says have been fitted with the emissions test-cheating software globally and rectify the problem within a one year period.
"If all goes according to plan, we can start the recall in January. All the cars should be fixed by the end of 2016," Muller told the newspaper. A copy of the interview was released prior to publication on Wednesday (7 October)
It is as yet unclear whether the recall and 'fixing' of the cars involves just removing the software or undertaking further work to ensure the vehicles are compliant with the emissions laws in the countries that the vehicles have been sold. The cheat devices give false readings on nitrogen oxide emissions when tested.
The company, in a letter to US customers, offered its "profound" apology for violating their trust and said that a remedy would take time. A copy of the letter dated 29 September and written by Michael Horn, head of the German carmaker's US arm said VW was working hard on remedies to bring its cars into emissions compliance as soon as possible but "getting this right will take some time."
Mueller was also quick to come to the defence of his predecessor whom he replaced when the emissions scandal broke out last month. He told the newspaper that he believed only a few employees were involved in the rigging of the emissions, refuting the notion that the 'detail-oriented' former CEO Martin Winterkorn must have known about it, Reuters reported. German prosecutors have started investigations into Winterkorn.
The BBC however thinks differently. In a report on 30 September, it said: "This was not the action of some rogue employee. There will have been a chain of command that approved the use of the cheat software in 11 million cars." It noted that while an internal inquiry is underway, it would be "surprising if such a blatant and widespread attempt to rig emissions tests didn't end with more heads rolling." As it said: "If VW can't identify who knew what, aggressive lawyers may do so."
Company to 'shine again' in 2 to 3 years
The CEO who only took over as the head of the company on 25 September, also said that he believes the company could "shine again" in two to three years, saying that the company needs an "evolution" rather than a "revolution" to get VW back on track. Only time will tell whether his two to three year target is achievable.
Mueller has also managed to put a positive twist to the scandal. "This crisis gives us an opportunity to overhaul Volkswagen's structures, We want to make the company slimmer, more decentralised and give the brands more responsibility."
Every model and brand would be scrutinised for its contribution to the company and he singled out Bugatti but details on what the plans are for the supercar marque are as yet unclear. Earlier, he told employees at the company's Wolfsburg headquarters in Germany that the challenges facing VW "will not be painless."
All investments that are not deemed absolutely necessary would be abandoned or delayed. Future investments in plant, technology and vehicles would be put "under scrutiny," he told staff. He also assured workers that the company would do everything it possibly could to keep jobs secure.
A total of 1.2 million vehicles within the VW group could be affected in the UK. The company has already temporarily suspended the sale of 4,000 vehicles in the country on fears that they may have been equipped with the emissions cheat device.