VW UK boss Paul Willis has denied that the company has an unethical culture and has not done enough to provide fixes for the ongoing emissions scandal.
Speaking at the Transport Select Committee for the third time, Willis, joined by VW engineer Oliver Schmidt, explained software that enabled VW models to cheat emissions tests was developed by a “small number of employees” in the drivetrain department. Willis refuted claims that the company had acted in an unethical manner, emphasising that the team he’s responsible for in the UK was completely uninvolved.
“I can categorically say that neither I or my employees [in the UK] had any idea that this was going on,” he said. “We have nothing to do with engine development. I am very clear on that."
When asked about what was being done to investigate who was to blame, Willis answered: “There’s over 100 terabytes of information to go through. We’ve employed Jones Day and other legal advisers – as many as 450 individuals - to trawl through 1500 employees' devices. We know from what we’ve found so far that it’s clear that some of the work processes need to be improved." Willis said more details on the investigation would be available in April.
Schmidt, who was not part of the drivetrain team when the offending software was written, explained it was the lack of quality control that allowed a few engineers to develop the offending software.
“The base code is now checked by quality insurance," said Schmidt. "Before, it was developed in engineering and then put into production. There was no quality assurance that looked into the source code of the inboard computers. Now the quality assurance looks into the source code before the software is encrypted."
Asked why the problem was the same in Europe and America, he went on to confirm that “the team that develops software for the US and European markets is the same”.
Transport Committee members continually labelled VW’s offending software as featuring a defeat device, but both VW representatives maintained that the software did not constitute one. Instead, they explained the software that recognises a car is being tested is not illegal according to European law, but software that changes emissions levels is.
In reference to the technical fixes which will be used to bring affected cars in line with emissions standards, Schmidt said: “The software update is removing the software that recognised the testing, but there is no difference in any other time. In fact, there is a small improvement in real-world driving due to advances in technology [since the original software was written]."