WASHINGTON, Oct. 8 (UPI) -- Michael Horn, chief executive officer of Volkswagen's operations in the United States, apologized for the company's software allowing vehicles to cheat emissions tests during a Congressional hearing Thursday.
"On behalf of our company, and my colleagues in Germany, I would like to offer a sincere apology for Volkswagen's use of a software program that served to defeat the regular emissions testing regime," he said before the House Energy and Commerce Committee's oversight panel. "These events are deeply troubling. I did not think that something like this was possible at the Volkswagen Group. We have broken the trust of our customers, dealerships, and employees, as well as the public and regulators."
Volkswagen has admitted installing "defeat devices," software able to determine when a vehicle's emissions levels are being checked to yield inaccurately lower readings. The software was installed on 482,000 diesel cars sold in the United States and 11 million globally. The vehicles, made in the 2009-2015 model years, in reality emitted up to 40 times the allowable amount of nitrogen oxide.
More than 230 class action lawsuits have been filed against Volkswagen over the scandal. CEO Martin Winterkorn resigned last month, governments worldwide have opened investigations and the value of Volkswagen stock has dropped. The company could face up to $18 billion in fines.
"The very notion of a carmaker intentionally violating our environmental laws is beyond belief," Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., Energy and Commerce Committee chairman, said in a statement prior to Thursday's hearing. "Those of us from Michigan take great pride in having a hand in many of the cars on the road today and we appreciate the challenges automakers face to meet consumer demands year after year, but reports of Volkswagen selling cars with devices aimed at skirting the law cannot, and will not be tolerated. Attempting to deceive regulators and customers is a double whammy of betrayal."
At the hearing, Horn promised to "make things right."
"This includes accepting the consequences of our acts, providing a remedy and beginning to restore the trust of our customers, dealerships, employees, the regulators, and the American public."