British lawmakers accused German carmaker Volkswagen’s U.K. head of telling “blatant lies” about excess emissions from its diesel cars as he testified to them about what steps VW is taking to clear the matter up.
Volkswagen’s Paul Willis had argued to a parliamentary committee that the company had “not misled customers in any way,” and added that “there is nothing wrong with any of [the cars] at all,” according to The Times of London.
“I have seen all sorts of evasive witnesses, but I think we have just seen somebody tell us absolute blatant lies,” Graham Stringer MP later said.
VW is issuing a series of general recalls for over 8 million diesel vehicles sold in the EU that notionally conform to EU testing rules, but emit up to 30 times the legal limit of nitrous oxides when on the road. Willis said Monday, adding that the recall was simply a precautionary measure to “remove any doubt.”
So far, VW has fixed 470,000 cars out of 1.2 million affected by the scandal in Britain, Willis said.
But because VW’s cars were technically legal, it has not had to pay out large amounts in compensation to European drivers, unlike in the U.S., where it has had to pay over $18 billion in various fines.
The abuse of the testing regime by VW and other European carmakers has contributed to a sharp increase in urban air pollution in many European capitals, leading capitals such as Paris and London to introduce new measures to keep diesel vehicles off the roads.
Britain’s junior transport minister John Hayes said he and his boss, transport minister Chris Grayling, would be traveling to Germany next month to meet their counterparts and seek more information which could lead to an investigation into VW in Britain.
“(We) will go to Berlin next month to meet the minister … to request that we’re provided the detailed technical information that will allow us then, if we chose to, to take further steps,” Hayes said.
Hayes also rejected Willis’ claim that Volkswagen had provided all requested information to the government in cooperation with investigations. “Not true,” said the transport minister.
Hayes told lawmakers he will soon meet legal representatives of consumers seeking to take legal action against Volkswagen to see what help the government could give them. According to industry experts, VW’s biggest liability could be for the collapse in resale values of the affected cars. Prosecuting it on public health grounds is effectively impossible.
This story has been updated. Reuters contributed to this report.