WASHINGTON — The majority of U.S. vehicles involved in the Volkswagen diesel-emissions scandal will require both a hardware and software fix, a complex solution that may take as much as five to 10 hours per car and one to two years to repair all cars, Volkswagen's U.S. CEO told a House panel in sworn testimony on Thursday.
Volkswagen Group of America CEO Michael Horn said there is no software solution only for the majority of vehicles — approximately 325,000 cars with Generation 1 diesel engines — and no concrete timeline yet to repair the affected cars.
The German automaker admitted that it manipulated diesel emissions control systems by rigging the software in as many as 482,000 diesel vehicles sold in the U.S. and 11 million vehicles worldwide.
"Technical teams are working tirelessly to develop remedies for each of the affected groups of vehicles," Horn said.
He asked consumers to have patience as VW works to develop a remedy.
Horn told lawmakers that the German automaker also is considering financial compensation for affected consumers, along with allowing disgruntled consumers to return their cars to the company. But no decision has been reached on whether to do either yet.
However, Horn said it is not likely that the automaker will provide loaner cars for customers who no longer want to drive the cars that were touted as environmentally friendly "clean diesels."
"We would have to discuss and consider this," Horn said in response to a question. "Right now, I would say 'no' because the EPA has said these cars are safe and legal to drive."
However, Volkswagen of America has provided its 650 U.S. dealers with "discretionary funds" to help them handle the crisis. Horn suggested that whether dealers decided to provide a loaner or buy back the vehicle was up to them, "no questions asked."
Any recall remedy will not affect the mpg ratings on the diesel vehicles, Horn said, but could have a modest effect on performance.
"On top speed, one or two mph might be missing," Horn said.
The decision to equip the diesel vehicles with a so-called "defeat device" to skirt U.S. and California emissions rules was attributed to "a couple of software engineers who put this in for whatever reason," Horn said.
He told lawmakers that three Volkswagen employees in Germany have been suspended, but said he could not share names with the panel. Horn insisted that neither the Volkswagen supervisory board nor top executives knew about the cheating.
He also told lawmakers that "dealer profitability" remains his top priority as the automaker comes to grips with the crisis.
Rep. Chris Collins (R-New York) called Volkswagen's response to the crisis "inadequate" and "arrogant."
"To get the USA to believe this is a couple of rogue engineers?" Collins said. "I categorically reject that."
Collins said either VW was incompetent or involved in a massive cover-up.
While many lawmakers said they owned Volkswagen vehicles in the past and one described Volkswagen as having an "almost cultish" U.S. following, anger and feelings of betrayal were evident throughout Horn's more than two-hour appearance.
Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vermont) read several questions he had received from Vermonters regarding the diesel-emissions scandal, including one that asked the automaker, "How do you consider yourself part of the human race?"
Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Illinois) a self-described consumer advocate, characterized the VW crisis as "pretty shocking for people."
"To find out that a company has deliberately cheated, it seems that asking customers for patience is just really not sufficient," she said.
Schakowsky added that some customers "don't want a fix" and told Horn that VW should consider buying back the cars as a "primary remedy."
Edmunds says: American consumers get some limited answers from VW's U.S. chief. At this point, Volkswagen dealers remain on the front lines of this crisis.