I stayed up late last night. Well, into the early hours of this morning to be precise.

Usually I reserve this for major sporting events. For example, I remember an 11-year-old me getting up to watch the 1986 Australian Grand Prix, hoping for my hero Nigel Mansell to clinch the Formula 1 title and watching in disbelief as his tyre blew on the main straight.

On this occasion, though, it wasn’t sport that kept me glued to my laptop screen, but Volkswagen, which has just suffered a blow-up of a very different kind.

Click here to read the latest news on the VW emissions scandal

The German manufacturer became embroiled in a massive scandal over fudged emissions tests during the weekend.

I bet some of the key European execs breathed a sigh of relief that it didn’t blow up a few days earlier at the start of the Frankfurt motor show.

Their Volkswagen of America colleagues were not so fortunate. Yesterday in the docklands area of Brooklyn, New York there was an event to launch the facelifted 2016 US-spec Passat.

Previous iterations of the Passat fitted with the 2.0-litre TDI engine are at the heart of the emissions cheating scandal, but Volkswagen had flown in guests from all over the world, so couldn’t exactly cancel the shindig despite the emerging crisis.

However, two of the companies key executives, Herbert Diess, chairman of the VW brand’s management board, and Heinz-Jakob Neusser, VW’s board member in charge of technical development, did pull out.

That left poor old Michael Horn, president and CEO of Volkswagen of America, to face the music. Well, he and Lenny Kravitz, who was rolled out as a bit of light relief.

So I stayed up late and went online to see what was said by Horn. Obviously he had time to prepare because Volkswagen has been aware of the EPA's findings for a few weeks. To his credit, though, he plunged straight in at the start of his address.

"Our company was dishonest. We totally screwed up and are deeply sorry. We will do everything we can to make things right,” he admitted, while cutting a rather lonely figure on the large stage.

He went on to describe the 2016 Passat as “a car built in America by Americans for Americans”, although it’s unlikely that this statement will conjure up much patriotic fervour among the customers right now.

Horn went on to promise that Volkswagen “will pay what we have to pay” in relation to fiddling the emissions tests.

However, there must be a growing sense that financial sanctions could just be the start of the car maker’s headaches.

Read more on the Volkswagen emissions scandal:

How the Volkswagen story unfolded

How VW's 'defeat device' works

VW board anticipates more top-line casualties

European cars are affected, says German minister

PSA Peugeot Citroën leads calls for tougher emissions test procedures

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