WASHINGTON — The Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal illustrates a failed or lax regulatory system in the U.S. and erodes the trust of U.S. consumers, according to speeches on Tuesday by U.S. Senator Bill Nelson and Mark Rosekind, the head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
In a scathing speech on the Senate floor on Tuesday, Nelson (D-FLA), said Volkswagen is the latest in a series of auto crises, including the massive Takata recall for defective airbags, that point to something wrong with the system.
Nelson castigated Volkswagen for "purposefully deceiving the American public."
The EPA on Friday said an investigation showed the emissions-control software in nearly 500,000 Volkswagen and Audi U.S. diesel vehicles, including the 2015 Audi A3 and 2014-'15 Volkswagen Passat, violated U.S. clean air rules by using a so-called "defeat device."
"I lay this not only on the corporate culture, I lay it at the feet of the U.S. regulatory agencies who ought to be doing their job, ought to be doing it in a forceful way, and then there ought to be some prosecutions and corporate executives that knew this and have done it ought to be going to jail," Nelson said.
In Tuesday's statement, Volkswagen AG said it is "working at full speed to clarify irregularities concerning a particular software used in diesel engines."
It also said it is allocating some 6.5 billion Euros or $7.3 billion in the third quarter to "cover the necessary service measures and other efforts to win back the trust of our customers."
NHTSA's Rosekind also addressed the VW crisis on Tuesday in a speech to the Automotive Industry Action Group 2015 Quality Summit in Novi, Michigan.
"While not directly related to safety, the revelation on Friday that another major manufacturer had sold nearly half a million vehicles with software designed to evade emissions standards can only further weaken public confidence in the industry's concern for safety and health," Rosekind said.
He called for help in driving a "proactive" culture and a "safety transformation that is about not just technology, but about mindset."
In the meantime, several U.S. law firms filed class-action lawsuits against VW for diesel-emissions fraud.
Edmunds says: Volkswagen's diesel-emissions crisis is rocking the automotive world and shaking the confidence of U.S. consumers.