Volkswagen's US chief started testimony at a congressional hearing on Thursday by offering "a sincere apology for VW's use of a program that served to defeat the emissions regime," Michael Horn said, per NPR, before blaming its use on "a couple of software engineers." Horn said he first heard of emissions problems via a university study last spring. "I was told that there was a possible emissions non-compliance that could be remedied," Horn said, per Reuters. "I was also informed that the company engineers would work with the agencies to resolve the issue." But even then, he said he had no clue that cheat software—which Horn said was developed in Germany and therefore "totally out of my jurisdiction"—was used in VW cars until days before the company met with regulators on Sept. 3, per tweets from a Los Angeles Times reporter.
Horn said he felt deceived by a company he knew to represent "integrity" and "quality." When asked whether the software was installed "for the express purpose of beating tests," Horn said he believed "it was installed for this purpose, yes." VW has since suspended three employees who can't be named under German law, Horn added. Horn said VW is considering buying back affected cars and offering rebates for lost value, per the Times. He added it could take years to fix the cars as retrofits, which would begin early next year at the earliest, will take five to 10 hours per vehicle. Still, "we know that we can fix these vehicles to achieve emissions standards," Horn said. "We will find remedies for our customers, and we will work to ensure that this will never happen again." Before Horn spoke, Rep. Fred Upton said Volkswagen had betrayed the nation and needed to clean up its act or "get off the road." (Read more Volkswagen stories.)