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Volkswagen's UK boss accused of relying on jargon at Westminster grilling

Published 25/01/2016

Volkswagen has been embroiled in controversy over emissions
Volkswagen has been embroiled in controversy over emissions

The UK boss of Volkswagen has been accused by MPs of using "legal jargon" to insist that software which cheated emissions tests in the US is compliant with European regulations.

Paul Willis, VW's UK managing director, told the Commons' Transport Select Committee that it should not be defined as a defeat device on this side of the Atlantic.

VW Group admitted in September that 482,000 diesel vehicles in the US were fitted with defeat device software to switch engines to a cleaner mode when they were being tested.

But despite the German-based manufacturer also announcing that some 11 million vehicles were affected worldwide - including almost 1.2 million in the UK - Mr Willis insisted that it did not break European rules on testing.

He said the software was not a defeat device in Europe because it is not "part of the emission control system".

Asked by Labour MP Graham Stringer if VW believed its vehicles were "still compliant with European regulations" despite them recognising when they were being tested, Mr Willis replied: "That's our position."

Questioned as to why he had previously apologised for the scandal, Mr Willis explained that he accepted the use of the software in Europe had been "inappropriate".

But SNP MP Stewart McDonald pressed him further on the issue, saying: " You seemed to dance on the head of legal jargon as to whether or not it was a defeat device or whether it does or does not break European laws."

He asked Mr Willis if he thought people would think VW Group was "as we say in Scotland 'at it'" and added: " You have perverse environmental regulations, you've treated European customers with disdain, you've treated regulators like bureaucrats and people are quite fed up."

Mr Willis replied: "I absolutely refute what you're saying.

"Volkswagen is an upstanding company. It cares about its customers, it invests billions, it invests more money than any other car company in technology and it is important that we get to the bottom of this.

"I don't agree with what you say that we treat people with disdain."

Around 508,000 VW cars, 393,000 Audis, 132,000 Skodas, 80,000 VW commercial vehicles and 77,000 Seats in the UK are affected by the scandal.

A programme to carry out remedial work on the vehicles is set to begin next month.

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