VW chairman of the board of directors Hans Dieter Potsch says a chain of errors led to the emissions scandal and that its top priority is winning back trust.
Speaking at a news conference, Hans Dieter Potsch said: “We are talking here not about a one-off mistake but a chain of errors.”
He said Volkswagen would be “relentless in seeking to establish who was responsible” for the scandal.
VW CEO Matthias Muller said it was “fighting for every customer”.
However, he said a massive slump in sales had not occurred in the wake of the scandal.
In September, US regulators found some VW diesel cars had a “defeat device” – or software – to cheat emissions tests.
The automaker said the problem began when it decided to launch a large-scale promotion of diesel vehicles in the US in 2005, but found it impossible to meet strict emissions limits in force in that country in time.
VW said it had agreed steps to improve supervision of engine software development to prevent future manipulation.
Matthias Mueller said it was relatively simple and inexpensive to fix the millions of affected cars, but this had not been possible before, as the technology for the fixes was not available when the cars were built. In any case, the company was unaware at the time that there was a problem.
VW will in future undertake “real-life” tests, which will be checked by both internal and external third parties.
Hans Dieter Potsch said: “No business justifies crossing legal and ethical boundaries.”
He said it was likely that only a limited number of people took part in the deception and said they would not be named as yet, adding that it was impossible to stop misconduct by individuals.
However, he added that the actions taken by the company would make such actions that much more difficult in future.
Law firm Jones Day is conducting an investigation into what happened. That, Hans Dieter Potsch said, was making good progress, but would take some time to conclude.
The cheat device affects up to 11 million VW cars worldwide.
The VW scandal widens as the automaker says it has found “irregularities” in carbon dioxide emissions levels, which could affect around 800,000 cars in Europe.
Volkswagen said the issue, which it came across while investigating diesel emissions, could cost about €2 billion.
Brands including VW, Audi, Skoda and Seat could be affected.
The issue mainly affects diesels, but could also include petrol models.
CO2 is a greenhouse gas, as opposed to the NOx involved in earlier allegations, which is a pollutant that causes lung disease.
The so-called irregularities that have now been found relate to the way in which CO2 emissions and fuel consumption were measured during the technical approval process for some models.
VW has not said whether or not it believes those irregularities were caused by deliberate action and it also has not specified which models are affected.
The company’s CEO Matthias Muller said: “From the very start I have pushed hard for the relentless and comprehensive clarification of events. We will stop at nothing and nobody. This is a painful process, but it is our only alternative. For us, the only thing that counts is the truth.”
The company’s board will talk to regulators about the consequences of its discovery, VW said in a statement, adding that “the safety of the vehicles is in no way compromised”.
The supervisory board issued a separate statement saying it was “deeply concerned” and promising “to ensure swift and meticulous clarification”.
The latest setback comes a day after US authorities accused VW of fitting nitrogen oxide defeat devices on its larger 3.0 liter diesel vehicles – charges which VW denied.
VW is already beset by scandal after the EPA discovered that some of its diesel vehicles were fitted with software that detected when they were undergoing emissions tests and changed the way they operated.
The so-called defeat device is understood to be in 11 million vehicles worldwide.
Earlier, it was announced that VW’s sales in the US had risen in October, despite the scandal.
About 11 million VW vehicles worldwide have diesel engines with software “irregularities”.
The automaker plans to set aside 6.5 bn euros ($7.3 bn) in Q3 2015 to cover the costs of addressing the issue. The amount of provisions it needs could still change as the investigation continues, VW said.
United States: Scandal emerged following findings by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Department of Justice and New York regulators have launched criminal investigations
Germany: Transport Ministry to send fact-finding committee to Volkswagen
Canada: Environmental Agency investigating some 100,000 Volkswagen and Audi diesel cars
Switzerland: Task force set up to investigate. Switzerland has temporarily banned the sale of VW diesel-engine models which could have devices capable of tricking emission tests.
Italy: Spot checks to be carried out on at least 1,000 diesel vehicles, transport minister says
United Kingdom: Vehicle Certification Agency to re-run lab tests and compare with “real-world” driving emissions
France: Random checks on 100 diesel cars aimed at “ensuring the absence of fraud”, says Environment Minister Segolene Royal
South Korea: Environment Ministry to investigate 4-5,000 Jetta, Golf and Audi A3 vehicles, could extend to all German diesel cars if problems found
The sale of VW diesel-engine models which could have devices capable of tricking emission tests has been temporarily halted in Switzerland.
The move could affect 180,000 cars – not yet sold or registered – in the Euro5 emission category.
This comes after VW, the world’s largest automaker, admitted cheating on emissions tests in the US.
Meanwhile, Matthias Muller has been named new VW CEO in the wake of the scandal.
He succeeds Martin Winterkorn, who resigned on September 23.
The row erupted after it emerged that some VW cars being sold in the US had devices in diesel engines that could detect when they were being tested, changing the engine performance to improve results.
The ban was announced by the Swiss Federal Roads office on September 25.
In a statement, it said vehicles that have 1.2-litre 1.6-litre and 2.0-litre diesel engines of VW models – including VW’s Audi, Seat and Skoda brands – could be affected.
The ban does not apply to vehicles that are already in circulation or cars with Euro6 emission category engines.
The Swiss authorities have also set up a taskforce to fully investigate the issue.
After his appointment, Matthias Muller said restoring the company’s reputation was his top priority.
“My most urgent task is to win back trust for the Volkswagen Group – by leaving no stone unturned and with maximum transparency, as well as drawing the right conclusions from the current situation.”
He also announced sweeping changes to the way the company was run, including handing greater autonomy to regional divisions.
Matthias Muller said he would tighten up procedures at the company: “At no point was the safety of our customers in danger. We will now have even stricter compliance. Our objective is that the people continue to use and drive our vehicles with confidence and pleasure. That’s 80 million people driving our cars worldwide.”
The EPA’s findings of the scandal cover 482,000 cars in the US only, including the VW-manufactured Audi A3, and the VW brands Jetta, Beetle, Golf and Passat.
But VW has admitted that about 11 million cars worldwide are fitted with the so-called “defeat device” – 2.8 million of them in Germany – and further costly recalls and refits are possible.
Half of VW’s sales in Europe – the company’s biggest market – are for diesel cars.
VW shares plunged around 30% in the days after the scandal broke.
Transport authorities in several countries have announced their own investigations.
VW has admitted using the same fake emissions test in Europe as it used to falsify results in the US, Germany’s Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt says.
It was not known how many of the 11 million vehicles affected were in Europe, Alexander Dobrindt said.
He also said other manufacturers’ vehicles would be checked.
The scandal began unfolding on September 18 when Volkswagen said it had used software in the US to provide false emission test results.
Alexander Dobrindt said he had been told vehicles with 1.6 and 2.0 liter diesel engines are “affected by the manipulations that are being talked about”.
VW’s Jetta, Beetle, Golf and Audi A3 models in the US from 2009 to 2015, and the Passat from 2014-15, were fitted with the devices which produced doctored results. However, diesel cars are far more popular in Europe than in the US.
Alexander Dobrindt also said random tests would be conducted on cars made by manufacturers other than VW: “It is clear that the Federal Office for Motor Traffic will not exclusively concentrate on the VW models in question but that it will also carry out random tests on vehicles made by other carmakers.”
The value of the world’s largest automaker has shrunk by around 30% since the scandal was revealed.
Separately, BMW shares dropped by 10% on reports the false tests had been used by other automakers.
BMW issued a statement denying the report, saying the “group does not manipulate or rig any emissions tests”.
“We observe the legal requirements in each country and adhere to all local testing requirements,” it continued.
Volkswagen is setting aside €6.5 billion to cover the costs of the scandal.
VW CEO Martin Winterkorn resigned following the revelation.
Martin Winterkorn said he was “shocked” by recent events and was “not aware of any wrongdoing on my part”.
VW’s supervisory board said it would announce Martin Winterkorn’s successor at a board meeting on September 25.
There has been speculation in German media that Matthias Mueller would be named as VW’s next chief executive. He is head of Porsche, which is part of the Volkswagen group of companies.
German public prosecutors are considering an investigation into VW emissions case, with US authorities also said to be planning criminal investigations.
VW CEO Martin Winterkorn has resigned after the revelation that the world’s largest automaker manipulated US diesel car emissions tests.
Martin Winterkorn said he was “shocked” by recent events and that Volkswagen needed a “fresh start”.
He added that he was “not not aware of any wrong doing on my part” but was acting in the interest of the company.
VW has already said that it is setting aside €6.5 billion to cover the costs of the scandal.
The world’s biggest carmaker admitted last week that it deceived US regulators in exhaust emissions tests by installing a device to give more positive results.
VW said later that it affected 11 million vehicles worldwide.
“I am clearing the way for a fresh start with my resignation,” Martin Winterkorn said in his statement.
He said he was “stunned” at the scale of the misconduct in the group but that he was confident that VW would overcome this “grave crisis”.
“The process of clarification and transparency must continue. This is the only way to win back trust,” he continued.
In a separate statement, VW’s supervisory board said they would announce Martin Winterkorn’s successor at a board meeting on September 25, adding that it was “expecting further personnel consequences in the next days” as a result of its own investigations.
“The internal group investigations are continuing at a high tempo,” it said.
“All participants in these proceedings that has resulted in unmeasurable harm for Volkswagen will be subject to the full consequences.”
The board also said that it would voluntarily submit a complaint to the state prosecutors.
“In the view of the Executive Committee criminal proceedings may be relevant due to the irregularities,” its statement said.
German public prosecutors have already said they are considering an investigation, with US authorities also said to be planning criminal investigations.
In addition, VW faces fines of up to $18 billion by the regulator, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
VW’s shares have tumbled some 30% since the beginning of the week in response to the scandal.