Boss of VW in the UK dismisses calls for customer compensation
The boss of Volkswagen UK this week waved away calls for car owners hit by the cheating emissions scandal to be get compensation. The car giant’s UK managing director, Paul Willis, said it was “premature” to discuss cash payments for the nearly 1.2million motorists affected by the emissions controversy.
Yet last week its boss in the US said it was looking to compensate American owners , even hinting that VW was considering handing out full refunds.
Quizzed by a US Congress hearing last week, Michael Horn confirmed it was “one of the areas we are looking at”.
However, it was very different tune from Mr Willis when he appeared before the Commons transport committee. He offered a grovelling apology and admitted dodgy cars have been on sale in the UK since 2008.
But he indicated those affected will get nothing more than a hire car while their vehicle is being fixed.
Deceitful VW ‘treated customers like fools’
Tory MP Mark Menzies raged: “Not only have Volkswagen been deceitful, you have treated (customers) like fools. What compensation are you seeking to give people that bought your cars on good faith and were sold a pack of lies?”
Mr Willis suggested he did not believe this would be necessary in the UK. “Of course where a customer is inconvenienced we will have to provide a loan car,” he said. “On the loss of value, I think it’s premature to talk about that.”
He went on: “I’m not trying to trivialise what we’re talking about here. This is a very serious issue – but it’s not a safety-related issue. However we have to make sure we regain the trust of our customers.”
Bozena Michalowska-Howells, from law firm Leigh Day, which is investigating over 2,000 claims on behalf of concerned Volkswagen users, said: “Mr Willis had absolutely nothing to say other than getting the word ‘Trust’ mentioned as many times as he could whilst not providing the details customers need for their trust to begin to be regained.
“It appears that once again the efforts of Volkswagen to minimise the impact of this deceit gives no consideration to the very real concerns of its customers.”
Around 400,000 of the 1.2million vehicles affected in the UK will require mechanical work as well as a simple software fix, Mr Willis revealed. In a pre-prepared statement Mr Willis delivered a carefully-worded apology to those affected.
Apology – what apology?
“I would like to apologise sincerely and unreservedly,” he said. “We recognise that we have fallen short of the standards expected of us and we will take all the necessary steps to regain trust.”
But he rejected any suggestion that he was so slow to act after learning of the scandal last month.
“I couldn’t stop selling cars if I didn’t know which cars were affected,” he told MPs. “There were eight days between when we first knew it affected Europe until I stopped selling cars – and the reason for that is the complexity of the number of cars involved.
“There are 60 different models, there are five different brands, there are three different engines and two different transmissions. I found the VIN numbers out precisely at 9am, and at 1:30pm – once I had clarified it with the computer systems – I stopped selling the cars voluntarily.”
He revealed just over 1,000 cars were sold over that eight-day period.
VW deserves to suffer
But his apology did not spare him the wrath of Tory Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin . “They have behaved in an appalling way,” Mr McLoughlin told the committee.
“It is fairly unbelievable to think that a company of the size and reputation of VW has been doing something like this. I think they are going to suffer very substantial damage as a result of it – and they deserve to, quite honestly.”
Lilian Greenwood MP, Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary, said: “Patrick McLoughlin said nothing in his statement to Parliament about the thousands of people whose health has suffered, or about motorists who brought these cars in good faith and now potentially face higher fuel costs.
“Transport Ministers were warned last October that emission levels were higher than claimed but did nothing, and there are still no convincing answers from the Department for Transport on whether other manufacturers are implicated.
“The Government needs to wake up from its shocking complacency, get a grip and explain to over a million drivers exactly what disruption they face next year when their cars are recalled.”