Comment: The world according to the boss of Volkswagen
It must be a happy place.
To the best of Paul Willis’ knowledge, Volkswagen UK hasn’t done anything wrong.
Other than producing vehicles that sneak around regulations designed to limit toxic emissions that have a proven impact on chronic heart and respiratory conditions of course.
The boss of the UK arm of the world’s biggest car manufacturer was hauled before MPs yesterday to answer for dieselgate.
Answers were in short supply.
It’s not wrong if you don’t tell anybody
What matters – according to Willis – is not that the tests concealed the levels of emissions, but that they never advertised the misleading statistics the tests produced.
They “misled nobody” and there was “no falsification whatsoever” to the public he told MPs.
As if a product not breaching regulations has ever formed the basis of a good advert.
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Nobody at VW talks to each other
Tory MP Mark Menzies criticised the VW boss for repeatedly starting sentences by reminding MPs that what he was about to say was “only to the best of [his] knowledge”.
To the “best of [his] knowledge”, the UK director told MPs, it is still “implausible” that senior staff knew about a scandal affecting 1.2million vehicles in the UK.
“It’s only [his] opinion”, though remember.
To the “best of his knowledge”, there will be no “physical” report published by Jones Day – a firm specifically hired by VW to produce an “independent” report investigating what went wrong at the company.
“One can only conclude because it contains evidence that runs counter to what they’ve said publicly and to this committee,” said transport minister John Hayes.
Again – to the best of Willis’ knowledge – when top VW engineer Oliver Schmidt appeared before the same committee of MPs one year ago, he answered all questions completely truthfully.
Schmidt was the man responsible for VW’s adherence to emissions regulations during the scandal. He has since been charged with fraud by the FBI.
Consumers have no right to compensation
The 10,000 customers who are attempting to sue the car giant would disagree, but Paul Willis believes they will not win the case.
You can’t compare the situation in the US to the UK, said Willis.
He is right, you can’t. In the US, the firm is being forced to pay out $19billion in fines and compensation to consumers. In the UK, VW has paid only £1.1million to the government for retesting their own vehicles.
“Compensation is a legal question in the end”, said Willis. So although the firm admits their vehicles don’t meet EU regulations, they argue that software defined as a “defeat device” in the US, is not so in the UK.
In fact the testing authorities don’t even test for defeat devices.
They don’t need to pay for all the costs to the taxpayer either
Once Willis had left the room, transport minister John Hayes told MPs that VW had handed the government neither the full information nor the full compensation the firm was asked to supply.
The government asked them to pay the £2m in taxpayers’ money that was spent on retesting vehicles after the scandal.
But VW only paid £1.1m of that – just the cost of retesting their vehicles, not other companies.
But the government is yet to launch a legal action.
The vehicles don’t really need to be fixed.
It’s only a “technical fix” said Willis. Despite committing to retrofit all vehicles by the end of last year, less than half have been fixed.
But Willis doesn’t even believe the fixes are necessary – the measures are only being applied in order to “remove any doubt from customers’ minds as to how their cars passed emissions tests.”
After all the defeat devices aren’t defeat devices.
So more than a million vehicles are being recalled, just to give customers peace of mind.
As I said, it’s a happy place.