Volkswagen's top U.S. executive has apologized over the massive emissions testing scandal engulfing the German automaker.
Michael Horn offered a "sincere apology" Thursday during testimony before members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee over the scandal involving almost a half million of its "clean diesel" vehicles in the United States.
The issue concerns Volkswagen's use of software to cheat the system by switching pollution controls on during emissions tests, but shutting them off during normal driving. Volkwagen admitted that some 11 million of the German carmaker's diesel vehicles worldwide were fitted with the software.
In prepared remarks, Horn said the events are deeply troubling and that the auto giant has broken the trust of its customers, dealerships and employees, as well as the public and regulators. Horn said Volkswagen takes full responsibility for its actions and is "working with all relevant authorities in a cooperative way." He said Volkswagen is determined to make things right.
Horn told the committee he knew more than a year ago that the cars possibly violated pollution rules, but, he said he did not know until September about the "defeat device" that allowed the vehicles to appear to be less polluting.
The chairman of the committee, Fred Upton, said, "VW will inevitably pay a steep price for its dirty little secret" as some lawmakers recalled owning VW Beetles early in their lives.
VW headquarters raided
Meanwhile, German police searched Volkswagen's headquarters Thursday as part of the probe related to the emissions-rigging scandal revealed in the United States.
In order to secure documents and digital data, police confiscated files and computer hard disks and raided private apartments in the town of Wolfsburg, where the automaker is headquartered.
Last month, Volkswagen appointed Matthias Mueller as its new chief executive officer to help the automaker recover from the scandal over the rigging of U.S. vehicle emissions tests.
Mueller, who has headed Volkswagen Porsche subsidiary, pledged to help the automaker get through the biggest business crisis in its 78-year history. Mueller replaced Martin Winterkorn, who had been CEO since 2007 and quit the job over the scandal.
In the United States, several lawsuits have already been filed against the automaker. U.S. environmental regulators say Volkswagen faces fines of up to $18 billion.