The UK boss of the VW Group has been branded a liar after giving evidence to the Transport Select Committee today (Monday, February 20).
Paul Willis (pictured) was making his third appearance in front of MPs since news of the VW emissions scandal first broke in 2015.
In a sometimes heated exchange between committee members and Willis, he denied that the company had misled UK customers and claimed there was no legal basis for compensation.
He told the committee: “You cannot compare the situation in Europe to that in the United States.”
Willis said there had been no change in fuel consumption and, from all the data he had seen, there had been no detrimental effect to the residual value of vehicles.
He continued: “We have never ever sold cars on the basis of nitrogen oxide levels in the UK; we did not mislead anybody in the UK.”
However, in what one MP described as akin to Alice in Wonderland, Willis claimed that the company was not guilty of any wrong-doing whatsoever. The ‘fixes’ being conducted on some 1.2 million Volkswagen, Seat, Audi and Skoda cars in the UK, he said, were simply being conducted to put customers minds at rest – there was essentially ‘nothing to fix’.
He also insisted that the company had given everything they had been asked for by the Department for Transport (DfT), including paying £1.1 million for the re-testing of VW Group vehicles by the DfT in the wake of the scandal.
However, transport minister John Hayes, who appeared in front of the committee immediately after Willis, called the UK MD’s evidence “extraordinary”, adding that VW Group’s “curious inability to recognise their own failure little short of ridiculous”.
He added that Willis’s claim that the VW Group had provided everything that the DfT had asked for was “not true”. Requests for the ‘fix’ on effected cars to come with a warranty and compensation for owners had “not been forthcoming”, he said.
In addition, Hayes said the total cost of re-testing vehicles, including non-VW Group cars, had been £2m and the manufacturer had only covered the cost of testing Audi, Seat, Volkswagen and Skoda cars – some £1.1m – despite requests to pay the larger amount.
“It would be entirely inaccurate to say everything we asked for has been provided,” continued Hayes.
In reaction to Willis’s evidence, committee member Graham Stringer MP told Hayes: “I have sat on select committees for 20 years and I have never seen somebody come along and blatantly lie to a committee; I’ve seen all sorts of evasive witnesses but I think we’ve just seen somebody tell us absolute blatant lies.”
For more on this story see the next edition of Fleet News.