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Volkswagen determined to win back American consumers

Tuesday, January 12, 2016 - 07:01
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Volkswagen promised on Monday to reconquer the hearts of American car consumers following an emissions-cheating scandal that has plunged the company into crisis.

[DETROIT] Volkswagen promised on Monday to reconquer the hearts of American car consumers following an emissions-cheating scandal that has plunged the company into crisis.

"We are determined to reignite America's love for Volkswagen," Herbert Diess, chairman of the Volkswagen brand, said on the opening day of the Detroit auto show.

Volkswagen's journey back into the good graces of US auto enthusiasts has begun with a stream of apologies and is now moving to announcements of fresh investments on American soil and new products aimed at the market.

"We have let down our long-term dealers, US authorities and the American people. I'm profoundly sorry for that," Diess told a journalists.

On Sunday night, VW chief executive Matthias Mueller followed the same apology ritual, a sentiment also expressed earlier Monday by the head of Audi, the VW luxury brand also implicated in the scandal.

The Wolfsburg-based group admitted to installing software in around 11 million diesel cars of its VW, Audi, SEAT and Skoda brands worldwide that helped them evade emissions standards.

The so-called defeat devices turn on pollution controls when the cars are undergoing testing, and off when they are back on the road, allowing them to spew out illegal of toxic nitrogen oxides.

Mr Mueller is scheduled to meet Wednesday in Washington with Gina McCarthy, the head of the US Environmental Protection Agency, which has led the crackdown on VW.

The meeting is expected to focus on VW's plans to fix the 600,000 diesel Volkswagens, Audis and Porsches in the United States that have the illegal defeat devices.

VW indicated Monday that a compensation package for affected carowners will be established. The conditions for consumers will depend on the plan to remedy the defect, Volkswagen America chief executive Michael Horn told AFP.

Mr Diess said VW plans meanwhile to beef up its offerings of sport-utility vehicles popular with American consumers.

It expects to launch the brand new mid-sized SUV, to begin rolling out of its Chattanooga, Tennessee factory in late 2016.

On Monday, the company also unveiled a plug-in hybrid version of the Tiguan SUV.

"Improving our strategy here in America is absolutely vital for our future," Mr Diess said.

AFP