VW chief to NPR: 'We did not lie'

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In an interview before the Detroit Auto Show, Volkswagen's new CEO seemed to challenge the idea that the automaker had done anything ethically wrong in its attempt to meet emissions standards.

That's in stark contrast to the automaker's earlier admissions that it had, in fact, cheated.

"Frankly spoken, it was a technical problem. ... We had not the right interpretation of the American law," Matthias Mueller said to NPR reporter Sonari Glinton.

Mueller, a native German speaker, is not fully fluent in English. He bristled at Glinton's suggestion that VW had done anything unethical, something VW executives have readily admitted in the past. Glinton was speaking with Muller at a VW-hosted dinner in a Detroit restaurant along with several other reporters.

"We didn't lie," said Mueller. "We didn't understand the question first. And then we worked since 2014 to solve the problem."

After NPR's initial story was published on Monday, the first day of the auto show, VW called Glinton in for a second interview. In that interview, Muller repeated the automaker's past apologies for having misled customers and regulators.

In a statement, VW (VLKPY) said that language issues were the problem, not a lack of remorse on Mueller's part.

"Mr. Mueller recognizes that his choice of words in trying to respond -- in English -- to questions about the conduct of VW with respect to the emissions issues may have resulted in some confusion," VW said in a written statement. The automaker again repeated its earlier apologies for the scandal.

VW has admitted to installing software in some of its diesel-powered cars that alters the engines' normal performance when the vehicles are being tested for emissions. Besides being forced to recall and somehow fix the cars to make them genuinely compliant with emissions rules, VW faces fines of up to $18 billion from U.S. regulators for installing the software on almost 500,000 U.S. cars.

On Tuesday, the Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board announced that VW had not yet submitted a recall and repair plan that met the agencies' approval.
In a statement, VW said that, in the time since its latest proposal was rejected, VW has been involved in ongoing discussions with both the EPA and CARB.

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