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We Have Let Down Customers, VW CEO Interviewed At Detroit Auto Show


At the Detroit Auto Show, a lot to celebrate. 2015 was a record year. Detroit sold more cars and trucks than ever before. Here is someone not celebrating.


MATTHIAS MULLER: We have let down customers, authorities, regulators and the general public here in America, too.

GREENE: That is Volkswagen's CEO Matthias Muller on his company's emissions scandal. Let's hear more now from NPR's Sonari Glinton.

SONARI GLINTON, BYLINE: We're here at one of these exclusive invite-only parties ahead of the North American International Auto Show. That's the big auto show here in Detroit. And we're waiting for Matthias Muller, who is the CEO of VW. Let's hear what he has to say.


MULLER: We are - I am - truly sorry for that. And I would like to apologize once again for what went wrong at Volkswagen.

GLINTON: That isn't the first time that Muller apologized. And it likely won't be the last. Though it's interesting, when you talk to Muller, he seems to say that the whole thing is a misunderstanding.

MULLER: Frankly spoken, it was a technical problem. We made a default. We had not the right interpretation of the American law. And the other question you mentioned - it was an ethical problem? I cannot understand whether you say that.

GLINTON: Because Volkswagen in the U.S. intentionally lied to EPA regulators when they asked them about the problem before it came to light.

MULLER: We didn't lie. We didn't understand the question first. And then we worked since 2014 to solve the problem. And it was a default of VW that it needed such a long time.

GLINTON: What do you say to those people who are investigating and who feel personally like that the company lied to them?

MULLER: First of al, I have to apologize on behalf of Volkswagen. And second, I have to promise - and we will do the pledge - that we deliver appropriate solutions for our customers as soon as possible.

GLINTON: Muller says he believes that Volkswagen will weather this storm. But to do that, first, the company has to weather investigations on multiple continents and get the forgiveness of the American people. And who knows how long that will take? Sonari Glinton, NPR News, Detroit. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sonari Glinton is a NPR Business Desk Correspondent based at our NPR West bureau. He covers the auto industry, consumer goods, and consumer behavior, as well as marketing and advertising for NPR and Planet Money.
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