VW’s new chief says firm will provide refits on 11m vehicles

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A worker walks between rows of A1 cars in the parking lot of an Audi plant in Brussels, Belgium. German carmaker Volkswagen, which is facing a scandal for the falsification of emissions tests in the United States, said 11 million of its cars have been fitted with faulty devices. [Photo: Shanghai Daily]

Volkswagen yesterday announced plans to refit up to 11 million vehicles and overhaul its namesake brand following the scandal over its rigging of emissions tests.

The company’s new Chief Executive Matthias Mueller said the German carmaker will ask customers “in the next few days” to have diesel vehicles that contained illegal software refitted, a move that some analysts have said could cost more than US$6.5 billion.

Europe’s biggest carmaker has admitted cheating in diesel emissions tests in the United States, while Germany’s transport minister said it also manipulated them in Europe, where Volkswagen sells about 40 percent of its vehicles.

The company is under huge pressure to address the worst business crisis in its 78-year history, which has wiped more than a third off its market value, sent shock waves through the global car market and could harm Germany’s economy.

“We are facing a long trudge and a lot of hard work,” Mueller told a closed-door gathering of about 1,000 top managers at Volkswagen’s Wolfsburg headquarters late on Monday.

“We will only be able to make progress in steps and there will be setbacks,” he said, according to a text seen by Reuters.

The company did not say how the planned refit would make cars with the “cheat” software comply with regulations, or how it might affect vehicles’ mileage or efficiency.

Manipulating emissions results allowed Volkswagen to keep down engine costs in a “clean diesel” strategy that was popular in Europe and at the heart of a drive to improve US results.

Mueller was appointed CEO last Friday to replace Martin Winterkorn. German prosecutors said on Monday that they are investigating Winterkorn over allegations of fraud.

The crisis is an embarrassment for Germany, which has for years held up Volkswagen as a model of its engineering prowess and has lobbied against tighter regulations on carmakers. The German car industry employs more than 750,000 people and is a major source of export income.

Germany’s KBA watchdog had set Volkswagen an October 7 deadline for it to present a plan to bring diesel emissions into line with the law.

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